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Anthrax Outbreak in Yogyakarta, Indonesia Under Control - 27 People Had Been Infected

According to the Director General of Disease Control Prevention, Anung Sugihantono, the Anthrax outbreak in Gunungkidul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, is under control. He stated that the situation has gradually improved and safe since the discovery in December 2019 (1/17/2020).

Although Gunungkidul is now claimed to be safe from the spread of Anthrax, Anung added that the pattern of transmission is not human to human, but human to human through animals as the medium. The spores can also spread through air or contaminated soil.

"Safe in the sense for humans, yes," he said, as reported by Tirto on Friday (1/17/2020).

Previously, Indonesia's Ministry of Health categorized the case as an Extra Ordinary Event (outbreak) which apply from December 28, 2019 and ended on January 6, 2020 since there was no new infection.

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The Origin of the Outbreak


Head of the Agriculture and Food Service Office of Gunug Kidul Regency, Bambang Wisnu Broto, said that in December 2019, there were reports of livestock which died suddenly.

"There were six goats and three cows (which died suddenly) at the end of 2019 in Gombang Village," Bambang said, as reported in Tirto, Friday (1/10/2020).

Anthrax Life Cycle. Source: cdc.gov

Reported by Detik on Friday (1/10/2020), the village chief of Gombang, Supriyanto stated that one of the dead cow was slaughtered and the meat was distributed and consumed.

"There are 3 cows that died suddenly in mid-December (2019). Well, one (cow) was slaughtered and (the meat) was distributed to residents, then two other cows were buried," he said.

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Anthrax Victims 


Currently, as many as 27 residents of Gunungkidul Regency, Yogyakarta are Anthrax positive.

According to the Head of the Disease Prevention and Management Division of the Gunungkidul Regency Health Office, Sumitro, as of January 4, there were at least 540 people who might have been exposed to Anthrax, as reported in Detik on Wednesday (01/16/2020).

Among them, 64 were exposed to the bacteria after consuming infected cow meat from Gombang Village.

"Of the hundreds, 87 people showed clinical symptoms, 54 had their blood taken and 11 had their injuries swiped," Sumitro said.

"Well, the results of the sample test have come out and 27 people are found to be Anthrax positive. The sample from the swiped wound is negative," said Sumitro.

One resident was thought to have died in December 31 due to Anthrax. However, the test result showed that the cause of death was meningitis.

According to Indonesia's Minister of Health, Terawan, antibiotics had been administered to Gunung Kidul residents who had exposed to Anthrax, as repored by Detik on Thursday (1/16/2020). The current condition of the 27 infected people is unclear, no fatality has been reported.


Anthrax in Gunungkidul


Reported by Kedaulatan Rakyat on Saturday (1/18/2020), Prof. AETH Wahyuni, from Gajah Mada University, Department of Microbiology, revealed that one of the possible cause of Anthrax emergence in Gunungkidul was due to the limestone soil that dominated the area.

"It turns out that these (Anthrax) spores like lime. The presence of CaCO3 made the bacteria or the spores become more comfortable (to grow) in there. I once used lime media, attached to positive Anthrax cow blood, and had it brought to the laboratory, and in fact, the spores could grow," Wahyuni said.

Anthrax outbreak had also happened in Gunungkidul regency in May, 2019.

How Dangerous is Anthrax? 


According to the U.S. Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bacillus anthracis is the bacteria which cause Anthrax. This bacteria is a Tier 1 agent which can be used as bio weapon. 

It presents the greatest risk of deliberate misuse with significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effect to the economy, critical infrastructure, or public confidence, and pose a severe threat to public health and safety.

In 2001, powdered anthrax spores were deliberately put into letters that were mailed through the U.S. postal system. Twenty-two people, including 12 mail handlers, got anthrax, and five of these 22 people died.

Anthrax can attack skin but inhalation of anthrax is the most serious form and can kill quickly if not treated immediately.

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