Bangladesh human anthrax infections cross 500

More than 500 people have been infected by anthrax as a major outbreak of the disease spreads through Bangladesh's dairy belt, a health official said Tuesday.

Ten districts have confirmed outbreaks of anthrax in humans and cattle, with the total number of people infected rising to 508 across the country, health ministry director Mahmudur Rahman told AFP.

No humans have died because the cases of human infection consist of cutaneous, or skin, anthrax - which causes wound-like lesions but is not fatal if treated properly.

"Thirteen new cases of human anthrax have been reported in the last 24 hours. This indicates that the rate of new infections is slowing down," Rahman said.

"The vaccination programme for cattle is having an impact," he said, adding that outbreaks appeared to be localised.

Last week, the health ministry said that 66 people became infected in one day.

Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected human or animal to another, but is spread through spores. Humans can contract anthrax from handling diseased animals or eating infected meat.

Bangladesh's current outbreak has spread through the dairy farming districts because of diseased cows being slaughtered and then sold on, officials said.

Hundreds of cows have died, causing panic among farmers and consumers.

Anthrax is a potentially lethal bacterium that exists naturally in the soil and commonly infects livestock which ingest or inhale its spores while grazing. It can be transmitted to humans who handle or eat infected animals.

kk/ceb/bgs/je

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