Anthrax-infected cattle imports from Brazil threaten human health

As 4,000 cattle imported from Brazil ahead of the Islamic feast of sacrifice are infected with anthrax, the Turkish agriculture ministry confessed the case of infection in 79 regions. "Should some people die before taking precautions?" medical experts ask
Friday, 31 August 2018 17:58

Veterinaries from Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry have vaccinated 10,000 cattle in Ankara as anthrax was detected in 4,000 cattle imported from Brazil ahead of the Islamic feast of sacrifice.

50 out of the anthrax-infected 4,000 cattle were killed on August 26. Turkey’s Meat and Milk Institution (ESK) imported the infected animals from Brazil and kept them in a farm for the feast of sacrifice. Due to the panic of a potentially spreading anthrax case among the animals, around 10,000 cattle have been vaccinated recently in the region.

Levent Gök, a lawmaker from the parliamentary main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) investigated the anthrax-infested region. “Previously, we did not witness any anthrax-infested animals here. This disease appeared in imported animals kept in a private farm,” he said, adding that there is no problem in the domestic livestock industry.

Although the Meat and Milk Institution said “no need to worry” despite its approval of the infestation, local cattle breeders and villagers claimed that some animals had already been killed before the detection of the disease, and that a butcher had been under medical treatment.


As the experts from the agriculture ministry should have taken samples from the cattle to be imported from Brazil, a question mark still remains: why were the infected animals transferred to Turkey if samples had been taken? Moreover, it is still uncertain whether the officials in charge of the cattle importation have faced any institutional investigation due to their negligence.

Ministerial authorities have not responded to the questions whether the cattle were subjected to any health tests during the importation; instead, they said that they would make a statement “when required”. However, the local breeders’ allegations contradict the officials. As nearly 4,000 cattle were shipped from Brazil to Turkey’s Mersin port, the animals under quarantine transferred into a private farm of a businessman, Ümit Aydoğan, in a village of Ankara around a month ago.

“Around 30 to 40 animals died. They threw them into the streambed along the farm. The dogs and birds of the village ate the carrions of dead animals. As anthrax was detected three days ago, dead bodies were buried with lime,” a breeder said, asking why the disease could not be detected when the cattle were under quarantine for tests at the port in Mersin before being allowed to be sold on the market.

Another local breeder claimed that the cattle were brought there to be processed for market sales in Ankara’s Sincan district. The breeders said that some of the cattle had already been killed at a slaughterhouse before the detection of anthrax case. Yet it is still ambiguous whether the carcasses were distributed to the people on the market.

Turkey’s Forestry and Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said, “Anthrax disease was detected at 79 points in Turkey in 2018. How many of these cases were reflected in media? Mostly, they did not. We also have a case of anthrax in Bitlis, 42 animals perished there,” revealing how widespread the disease is around the country.


Sinan Adıyaman, the Chair of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) talked to soL News. “Previously, there were rules for everything. The veterinary inspection was required for animal importation. The AKP cancelled it,” he said, adding that the recent case appeared as a result of the lack of veterinary inspections due to the policies of the government.

He underlined that the agriculture minister’s confession regarding the detection of the anthrax case in 79 regions around Turkey shows the gravity of the problem, saying that they cannot access to any data showing the number of undetected cases. “The ministry should take precautions immediately instead of underestimating or covering up these data,” he said.    

Stating that anthrax is a disease of herbivorous animals, Adıyaman said that it could infect humans via respiration or skin contact. “Intestinal anthrax can cause death in a week. Should some people die before grasping how important this disease is and taking precautions?” he asked.

Accusing Turkish authorities of taking unserious steps, he argued that the agriculture and forestry ministry should be deprived of the task of food inspection; and a new working group, including ministries, chambers and universities, should be formed in order to prevent further cases.

The Turkish Medical Association also released a statement following the case of anthrax. Providing some scientific information regarding the infection of the disease, the association asked some questions for the related Turkish authorities.

“How were these animals imported although they had anthrax bacillus by disregarding the laws and regulations?” the association asked, adding whether the authorities responsible for the importation process faced any legal action. The association also asked if there were any other anthrax cases apart from those in Ankara, and if any steps were taken.

According to the association’s statement, it is still a question mark whether all the sheep, goat and cattle were subjected to an official health test before being sold out on the market during the feast of sacrifice. As the association asked the ministry about the number of people who went to hospitals for anthrax cases within the last month, if the economic damage arising from the implementation of quarantine due to anthrax cases would be met still remains uncertain.