Bangladesh: Catholics on standby after anthrax outbreak

Anthrax bacteria source: CD

Anthrax bacteria source: CD

Bangladesh Catholic health workers say they will assist the government to fight the sudden anthrax outbreak that has hit the country's beef and leather industry.

The media first reported the anthrax outbreak in mid-August. More than 600 people have been infected as it spreads from Bangladesh's dairy belt, with 12 districts confirming affected humans and cattle.

According to government sources, about 102 infected cattle have either died or been slaughtered but no humans have perished.

"So far no Christian has been infected by anthrax. But Catholic health workers across country are helping treat infected people," said Edward Pallab Rozario, a Caritas Community Health officer.

"In case of natural disasters or disease outbreaks, the government asks help from NGOs if the situation is out of control," Rozario added. He also says that they are ready to assist the government anytime.

"Our hospital is ready to help anthrax patients, but there's none so far," said Sister Mary Olympia, a doctor-nun from the Associates of Mary Queen of Apostles.

There are currently 75 Catholic doctors and thousands of health workers working government, non-government and Church-run organizations in the country.

A high-level government committee was formed to contain the outbreak before the mid-November Muslim festival of Eid al-Azha, traditionally celebrated with the mass slaughter of animals.

"We are launching a major counter-attack on the outbreak by vaccinating all at-risk cattle," said committee head and livestock minister Abdul Latif Biswas. He said the public shouldn't panic, saying eating beef was safe.

However, Bangladesh's beef and export-oriented leather processing industry has also been affected by the outbreak.

Thousands of beef shops in Dhaka have been shut down with demand falling 90 percent since the outbreak hit.

Many tanneries sit idle as supplies fall sharply with less slaughtered cattle. Chicken prices have skyrocketed as traders try to take advantage of the situation.

Bangladesh exported leather goods worth 32 billion taka (460 million US dollars) last year, according to the export promotion bureau.

Anthrax does not spread from one infected human or animal to another but humans can contract anthrax from handling diseased animals or eating infected meat.

Source: UCAN/Banglanews

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