Man dies of anthrax in Kazakhstan

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ASTANA, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - A 38-year-old man has died of anthrax in southern Kazakhstan, the ex-Soviet republic's emergencies ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

The man was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in the city of Lenger on Monday.

The Kazakh emergencies ministry said the victim had caught the infection while slaughtering cattle.

Outbreaks of anthrax are relatively common in the Central Asian state. Owners of sick cattle have been known to sell meat from infected animals after culling them, bypassing veterinary checks.

In early June, one man died of anthrax in Jalal-Abad, in southwestern Kyrgyzstan. Anthrax was also confirmed in 21 patients in hospitals in southern Kyrgyzstan on July 28.

Anthrax affects both wild mammals and domestic cattle that ingest or inhale the bacterial spores while grazing. The spores can survive dormant in soil for decades. Humans can also contract the disease if they are exposed to the blood or tissue of infected animals.

Anthrax can be highly lethal, but in some forms responds well to antibiotic treatment.

In 1979, the accidental release of anthrax spores from a Soviet military facility in Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg, resulted in at least 94 people becoming infected with the disease. Some estimates put the amount of people infected as high as 500.

A secret KGB internal report stated that sixty four of the infected people died over the next six weeks in the city, located 1450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow. Unofficial estimates put the number of deaths at around 100.

Soviet authorities covered up the incident, blaming the deaths on infected meat. The accident, and the accompanying biological weapons program, was only officially acknowledged in 1992 by then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Communist Party boss in the city at the time of the accident, Yeltsin was reportedly denied access to the facility by military authorities.

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