The Siberian Times reports that Russian army biological protection troops have been called in amid warnings of ‘utmost care’ needed to stop anthrax from spreading.
A total of 40 people, the majority of them children, from nomadic herder families in northern Siberia are under observation in hospital amid fears they may have contracted the anthrax. Doctors stress that so far there are no confirmed cases.
Up to 1,200 reindeer were killed either by anthrax or a heatwave in the Arctic district where the infection spread.
Specialists from the Chemical, Radioactive and Biological Protection Corps were rushed to regional capital Salekhard on a military Il-76 aircraft.
They were deployed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to carry laboratory tests on the ground, detect and eliminate the focal point of the infection, and to dispose safely of dead animals.
The 40 are all from a total of 63 nomads belonging to a dozen families who were at the site of the outbreak at Tarko-Sale Faktoria camp. The remaining nomads have been evacuated some 60 kilometres from the focus of infection in Yamalsky district.
A prolonged period of exceptionally hot weather in an Arctic Siberian district – with temperatures of up to 35C – has led to melting of permafrost in Yamalo-Nenets and other regions.
The outbreak of anthrax earlier this week is the first in this part of Russia since 1941.
Officials say 1,200 reindeer have died in recent days, evidently through a combination of infection from anthrax, and the heatwave – unprecedented in living memory.
A major inoculation programme is also underway with a local state of emergency declared at Tarko-Sale Faktoria camp, above the Arctic Circle and close to the Yaro To lake, some 340 kilometres north-east of Salekhard.