37 human anthrax cases in northern Iraq outbreak

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Thirty-seven people have been infected by anthrax in northern Iraq in the country’s first outbreak of the disease since the 1980s, the health minister in the Kurdish autonomous region said Sunday.

Health Minister Ziryan Othman said the disease appeared to have been passed on from livestock. The first human case of the outbreak was discovered in remote Dahuk province last month.

None of the reported cases had yet proven fatal, he told Reuters. The 37 cases in humans have all affected the patients’ skin, rather than their lungs or internal organs, as occurs in more serious anthrax cases.

Othman said the authorities have ordered that infected animals be slaughtered and buried, while animals not yet infected should be vaccinated.

“The health and agriculture ministries are trying to contain this disease, because if it is spread among animals and then is transferred to humans it will have a negative effect on the economy,” he said.

Anthrax, which can be deadly in humans in some forms, is an endemic disease in cattle. Anthrax spores can be used as a biological weapon, but there has been no suggestion that this has been the case in the outbreak in Iraq.

(Reporting by Sherko Raouf; writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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