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SOCIETY & CULTURE

Hundreds of Sheep Slaughtered to Contain Anthrax Outbreak

On their way to an ancestral ceremony, ethnic Manchu citizens in China's Heilongjiang province pass by a flock of sheep, on Nov. 12, 2010. Photo: VCG
On their way to an ancestral ceremony, ethnic Manchu citizens in China's Heilongjiang province pass by a flock of sheep, on Nov. 12, 2010. Photo: VCG

Heilongjiang provincial animal disease control and prevention authorities have ordered the culling of hundreds of sheep suspected of having anthrax in the latest scare involving the deadly virus to hit China.

More than 250 sheep at a farm in Yilan county, about 180 miles northeast of the provincial capital of Harbin, were put to death in recent days over fears of anthrax infections, China News Service reported Wednesday, citing local governments.

The animals included 190 sheep procured from Huanan county in the city of Jiamusi in Heilongjiang. An unspecified number of sheep at a farm in Huanan were reported Tuesday to have died from anthrax exposure.

Direct contact with anthrax, found in infected animal carcasses, wool, hair and hides, can lead to raised boil-like lesions. Exposure to anthrax spores via inhalation can cause lung damage, often fatal.

Anthrax made international headlines shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001 when five people died from inhaling anthrax and 17 more were infected after exposure to anonymous letters laced with deadly anthrax spores that had been mailed to media companies and congressional offices.

In February 2010, U.S. authorities revealed that Bruce E. Ivins, a government scientist who had committed suicide in July 2008, acted alone when mailing the anthrax letters.

The sheep infected with anthrax at the Huanan farm were purchased from a village in Qitaihe, about 260 miles east of Harbin. All three people who had contact with the animals have been quarantined, according to the Huanan county government, which also said one person is suspected of being infected with anthrax though the person did not exhibit typical symptoms.

An unspecified number of sheep at the farm in Huanan county have been culled as a precaution, the Huanan county government said.

However, it is not clear if the sheep in the farm in Qitaihe were showing symptoms of anthrax exposure or what measures the Qitaihe authorities have taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

Ten people were hospitalized with anthrax infections after they ate beef from a cow that died of anthrax or that had made contact with livestock sickened by anthrax in Xifeng county, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, in July 2015.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com)
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