Thu, 11 Mar 1999

One died of anthrax

MAUMERE, East Nusa Tenggara: At least one person has died and around 200 have been treated for anthrax, Antara reported Wednesday.

The report said the residents of Kota Reo in Reok district, Manggarai regency, complained of red spots after consuming contaminated water buffalo meat.

Anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus antracis, is infectious and contracted by exposure to infected animals.

Manggarai police chief Lt. Col. Suhartono said the incident happened earlier this month when a buffalo died.

Two residents in critical condition were brought to the Reo community health center while another died on the way to the Ruteng hospital.

Suhartono said the animal died Sunday with foam covering its mouth, and the agency quoted him as saying the owner had requested people to bury or burn it.

But it turned out the carcass was consumed and residents reported red spots on their skins two days later.

"We don't blame the owner," Suhartono said, "because he had already warned people not to consume the animal."

There is no evidence that the police could use, he said, "because the meat is all eaten."

The agency said the animal died at a quarantine center.

The head of the animal husbandry office in Manggarai, Daniel R. Ballo said a team had already been formed to look into the case.

He said Manggarai was vulnerable to anthrax, because the wide area hampered access to checks on all animals.

He said Reo, on the north coast of Manggarai, has often become a site of illegal trade in animals to South Sulawesi.

The agency reported that nine villagers of Papang in Satarmese district, also in Manggarai, were also recently afflicted.

However the head of the provincial health agency in Kupang, Bambang Poernomo, denied that at least 200 were affected in Reo, saying the figure was only dozens.

He said such contaminated carcasses should be burnt. (anr/yac)