"Zombie" Anthrax Outbreak In Siberia Blamed On Thawed-Out Infected Reindeer Corpse

Siberian reindeer. Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) is a relatively common bacteria that can be found in wildernesses all over the world. Symptoms begin between one day and two months after initially contracting the bacterial infection, and takes four different forms: skin, respiratory, intestinal, and intravenous.

Skin (cutaneous) anthrax is considered to be the least dangerous – without treatment, 20 percent of those infected die. Inhalation anthrax, on the other hand, kills around 85 percent of those afflicted by it if they aren’t treated in time. A vaccine is widely available, as are courses of antibiotics for those who have already been exposed to the bacteria.

Anthrax spores take a long time to disappear from the environment, and as such it has been co-opted for use in biological warfare. Its first documented use occurred as far back as 1916, when Scandinavian rebels, supplied by the German Army, used it against Russian forces in Finland in 1916.

It has also been used by terrorists, as seen in the 2001 anthrax attack in the US. Twenty-two people were infected via deliberately contaminated envelopes sent via the postal system, and five died. Anthrax has broken out in Russia multiple times in the past, including in 1979 after an accident at a Soviet biological weapons factory. In the resulting chaos, 64 people died.


Nenets, one of the local communities in western Siberia. Vladimir Kovalchuk/Shutterstock

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