THE Department of Health (DOH) in Cordillera advised the public to remain vigilant after 23 suspected anthrax cases were reported in Abra after eating a meat of a double dead carabao.

Reports from Abra health officials revealed that from January 17 to 24, suspected anthrax cases increased from 12 to 23, respectively.

Health officials said the cases were in the barangays of Cayapa, Bacooc, and Paganao in Lagangilang, Abra.

Reports gathered by the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (Resu) revealed that majority of the patients were males, including three children with age range of two to 57 years old. Two were admitted in Abra Provincial hospital, but were discharged after four days.

The patients were seen to have exhibited the signs and symptoms similar to that of anthrax that include skin lesion, muscle pain and itchy skin, headache, fatigue, stomach pain, difficulty in breathing, sore throat and dry cough. Specimen samples from the suspected anthrax cases were already sent to Manila for laboratory confirmation.

DOH-Cordillera Assistant Regional Director Dr. Pangilinan said the Provincial Epidemiology Surveillance Unit of Abra is close coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the concerned municipality for appropriate action, surveillance and development on the suspected anthrax cases.

The department is still awaiting results of the specimen sent for laboratory confirmation.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis and can be acquired by humans through direct contact with an infected animals, gastro-intestinal and through respiratory.

Though anthrax infection in humans is treatable when detected early, Pangilinan said the public must refrain from eating contaminated meat especially meat of double dead animals.

In 2010, health officials declared an outbreak of anthrax in the Municipality of Villaviciosa in Abra after 38 cases were confirmed positive.

All patients were said to have eaten meat of butchered carabaos that died of unknown causes, however, no deaths was recorded. (Diana Domes-Palangchao)