(UPDATE) Anthrax kills 1, downs 400 in Cagayan
MANILA, Philippines - One person died and at least 400 more were infected with anthrax after eating double-dead carabao meat in Cagayan province last week, a provincial health officer said Tuesday.
Dr. Danilo Alonzo, Cagayan provincial health chief, said the fatality was the first case of anthrax they recorded in Lasam town. He said the man died of a heart attack, which they suspect was aggravated by the effects of the anthrax disease.
"The first case was recorded in a hospital in Lasam. He died [of a heart disease], but the doctor saw blisters and the man had skin infections," Alonzo said, adding that these are signs of an anthrax infection.
Earlier reports said more than 50 people were infected by the bacteria, but Alonzo said there were actually 400 cases.
He said the 50 patients were the ones who were able to seek medical help at the Cagayan Valley Medical Center. He said majority of the cases were treated in Lasam town, through the help of the provincial government.
Alonzo said majority of the 400 patients have already recovered, and only 13 remain under observation at the Cagayan Valley Medical Center.
The provincial health officer said the provincial government is now looking into the possible liability of the provincial office of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
He said that the man who sold the double-dead carabao meat to the victims, is claiming that the local DA in Lasam town gave him an approval to sell the infected meat.
Alonzo said that according to the man, he brought a sample of the carabao meat to the local DA and was told that it was safe for human consumption as long as it had been drained of blood.
"This is what we are confirming, the possible liability of the people from the Department of Agriculture in Lasam. The man said he was given a go signal that the meat can be eaten," the doctor said.
He said the carabao meat was sold to the victims on February 19. He added that it took a week before the victims started feeling the symptoms of the disease.
What is anthrax?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis and affects both humans and other animals.
It said gastrointestinal anthrax infection is most often caused by eating anthrax-infected meat and is characterized by serious gastrointestinal difficulty, vomiting of blood, severe diarrhea, acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, and loss of appetite.
A Wikipedia article on anthrax added that "after the bacteria invades the bowel system, it spreads through the bloodstream throughout the body, making even more toxins on the way. Gastrointestinal infections can be treated but usually result in fatality rates of 25% to 60%, depending upon how soon treatment commences."
"Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated herbivorous mammals which ingest or inhale the spores while grazing," the report said.
"Anthrax spores can be produced in vitro and used as a biological weapon. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes. The dead body of an animal that died of anthrax can also be a source of anthrax spores," Wikipedia said. -- With a report from Brigette Mayor, ABS-CBN Cagayan