Author`s name Michael Simpson

Anthrax Cattle Graves - Russia's 500-year Disease Threat

Veterinary records confirm an anthrax outbreak in Russia's Volgograd region. Three cases have been registered - two blamed on a diseased cow killed for a meat-packing factory
The outbreak at Vodno-Buerachny in Kamyshinsky district followed a vet missing signs of anthrax symptoms in the beast, attributed to "atypical development of the disease." Though the animal looked unhealthy, it still went to the slaughterman and ended up as sausage meat, a case report says.

Compounding the offence, the carcass was not medically examined and the diseased meat was processed inside a week - while trouble reared when the cow's now sick owner and the slaughterman went to hospital. They, and another animal owner, were diagnosed with a skin form of anthrax and the settlement was quarantined. Unlike the intestinal and pulmonary strain, this can be cured easily, doctors say.

But while vets are charged with checking live animals for diseases like this, anthrax burial sites are going unmonitored for the huge health dangers lurking there. Volgograd’s regional administration says their territory is home to at least 1,500 anthrax sites, many neglected because exact locations are known for just a few.

Before 1948, infected carcasses were not cremated, as is practice now. Since then, landscapes have changed and settlements knowing of many sites have disappeared. The spores, meanwhile, have a lifetime of up to 500 years even underground. Neglected sites are as deadly as decades ago.

Senior assistant at the Inter-regional Environmental Prosecution Office Alexander Bondar says of 600 anthrax burial places in 12 Volga Basin districts, locations of only 15 are known for sure. In the Russian republic of Tatarstan, though, the exact position of 80 per cent has been determined.

Ordinary burial grounds of non-contagious cattle pose their own threats when neglect breeds a whole spread of disease. Inspectors checking these in the Volgograd region found all sites flouted regulations which demand 10 meters of depth and sides covered with concrete, Bondar said. Most of these are just huge pits, haphazardly covered over.Veternaries there record 306 "equipped" burial places and 155 classed "primitive."

Landsite owners are responsible for building disposal sitescattle burial places. Construction of a pit costs about 100-120 thousand rubles. Fines for construction violations are relatively low, and little deterrent.

Things could become worse as the state Agriculture Ministry has made veterinary services funded from budgets of lower-tier federal administrations. This may bring staff cuts. Estimates put maintaining Volgograd region's local veterinary work at 150 million rubles a year.

Liana Nalbandyan