VLADIVOSTOK, August 31 (RIA Novosti) – Fifteen animal burial sites, including two storing remains of animals killed by anthrax, have been flooded in the disaster-hit Russian Far East, a Russian minister said Saturday.
However, tests found no evidence so far that anthrax bacteria have spread and contaminated any area outside the burial sites, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.
Experts continue monitoring the areas for possible contamination, she added, speaking at a governmental meeting.
Since late July, Russia’s far eastern territories have been affected by the worst flood in the 120-year-long history of meteorological records in the region. More than 100,000 people were displaced, 11,000 houses flooded, and total damages are estimated at 30 billion rubles ($1 billion).
Anthrax can have a lethality rate of upward of 90 percent, depending on bacteria strain and timeliness of treatment, which made it a potential tool of biological warfare explored by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Spores of bacteria that cause anthrax can live on in burial sites for decades.
This is the second incident within a week related to lethal diseases with a high epidemic potential. On Monday, authorities in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan confirmed the death of a local teenager from bubonic plague, which he apparently contacted from a flea living on a marmot that he has eaten. No further cases of infection were reported, and local authorities launched a marmot extermination campaign.