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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • Outbreak of Anthrax in year 2021 has been recorded in districts of Gajapati, Rayagada and Koraput, but the epicentre of the disease in the State is Koraput.
  • Over the last 15-years,14 of 30 districts in Odisha have experienced outbreaks of human anthrax. The total cases are at around 1,208 and deaths are 436.
  • A strong free-of-cost routine and outbreak (ring) vaccination program against anthrax in the district is on cards.

In order to root out the lethal human anthrax by the year 2024 from the soils of tribal district Koraput, the ICMR's Bhubaneswar Unit - the Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) - has commissioned a study to analyse the implementation of a 'One Health' intervention model based on the principles of Theory of Change (ToC) there, which will soon give a final word on routine vaccination against anthrax.

As per the data available with IDSP, the outbreak of Anthrax in the year 2021 has been observed in the districts of Gajapati, Rayagada and Koraput, but the epicentre of the disease in the State is Koraput.

Though this is known as a hot-season disease and outbreaks are believed to continue to happen in hot-dry climates accompanied by occasional brief showers, the disease outbreak in the district has been observed throughout the year, except for November and December, reveals IDSP data.

Anthrax Severity

The zoonotic disease is considered fatal if patients are not diagnosed early and treated promptly with antibiotics. The spores of the bacteria Bacillus anthracis are present in the soil. It affects both animals (domesticated like cattle and wild) and humans. Basically, the transmission happens from animals to humans. The human organs that will be under attack are the lungs, intestine and skin.

Data with RMRC Bhubaneswar shows, over the last 15-years,14 of 30 districts in the State have experienced outbreaks of human anthrax. When the total number of cases is estimated at around 1,208, the human toll stood at 436. The epicentre Koraput bears the burden of over 300 human anthrax cases, including 10 deaths, in the last 6-years.

The social cost seems too high as almost all the cases have been detected from a group of indigenous tribes involved in handling and consuming animal carcasses, surveillance data reveals.

"Viewing the dimensions of the disease - social and health - RMRC in association with Odisha Government Health Department has planned to implement this research project in Koraput. The "One Health" approach will demonstrate the feasibility for the elimination of human anthrax cases in three years," explained RMRC scientist Hari Choudhary.

As separate components to eliminate the disease of human anthrax cases in the endemic regions have not yielded any significant outcome, the RMRC for the first time in India has planned this 'One Health' approach model, he further outlined.

The RMRC - Odisha government joint study team is led by RMRC Bhubaneswar head Dr Sanghmitra Pati.

What 'One Health' Model Is?

  • Risk zoning will be done first, based on surveillance data available with regard to the previous infections in both humans and animals from different units in the district.
  • Geographic Information systems (GIS) mapping will be done on a real-time basis to categorize the geographical limits of the district.
  • The objective is to identify places that need immediate health intervention, which will then be put in the RED (means urgent action), YELLOW(means Alert mode) and GREEN (it doesn't mean alright but continue monitoring) zones during and post the outbreak.
  • Besides, it will also focus on Capacity-building, surveillance, and IEC/BCC activities that can be taken up on a priority basis in the zones.
  • The team will also advocate a strong free-of-cost routine and outbreak (ring) vaccination program against anthrax in the district.
  • Besides, it will develop an SOP for the health and administrative department to preempt the anthrax challenge.

The details of the study are published in the latest issue of PLOS journal.

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