Every year across Armenia, European Union grant money is spent in efforts
to combat disease spread from animals to humans. This year alone 950 million drams
(about $1.6 million) will be spent for protection against brucellosis, tuberculosis,
foot and mouth disease and anthrax.
But this year, like others, consumers
have taken ill from meat spoiled by the potentially-deadly anthrax, more than
100 cases of brucellosis will be reported, and foot-and-mouth disease is found
in cattle, though it is officially denied.
In August, ArmeniaNow
reporter Vahan Ishkhanyan won an investigative reporting grant from IREX/ProMedia,
a United States Agency for International Aid media-strengthening program, and
was assigned to research Armenia's battle against these infrequent, but potentially
dangerous, health risks.
Anthrax: Cattlemen know its terror,
of being late with anthrax vaccination, Ara Grigoryan lost his only cow, which
was also his only source of income. "It's Armenian fate," he says.|
On July 13, meat inspectors found bacillus of anthrax in beef brought
to a Komitas Street market from the village of Yervandasht, in the Armavir region.
"It is the first time when anthrax appeared in our village,"
says head of Yervandashat village Hovnan Avetisyan, "I never heard about
it before. It happened because state measures hadn't been taken."
only cow of 70-year old Ara Grigoryan was taken ill with anthrax.
two days I had been giving medicines to my cow against kiapanak (a disease of
cattle) but it didn't help. The cow fell to the ground and I knifed it before
it died. I told my son to take the cow to Yerevan and sell it there. But it became
clear that the cow had been infected with anthrax," says the villager.
to state regulations, vaccinations against anthrax should have been made in spring,
but were not. Veterinary service specialists of the Baghramian region vaccinated
the village cattle only after learning of the incident with Grigoryan's cow.
very word "anthrax" became synonymous with terror, when envelopes of
the powdered form (multiple times more deadly than found at its origin) were mailed
to key locations in the United States, creating a national hysteria in 2001. In
that year, 18 cases of the disease were reported in Armenia.
three residents of Armenia became sick from anthrax-infected meat, and three large
cats at the Yerevan Zoo died from eating meat spoiled with the bacteria. Inspectors
from the Center for Veterinary Service detected meat infected with anthrax in
a meat market located on Khorenatsi Street in central Yerevan.
the only case of anthrax registered this year was the one in Yervandashat. However,
deputy chief doctor of "Nork" Hospital for Infectious Diseases Gohar
Tamazyan said that in July one man had been diagnosed with cutaneous (skin) anthrax.
Anthrax, which gained a high profile as an ingredient in weapons of mass
destruction, can have serious consequences as an innocently consumed bacteria.
It can be transmitted through ingestion or through handling infected meat (only
the second type has been registered in Armenia.)
In its worst stage, anthrax
can cause death. First-stage disorders include fever and, in cases of cutaneous
transmission, swelling and skin discoloration.
Geghetsik Sargsyan, of
the Maisian village in the Armavir region, was one of those who had been infected
with anthrax in 2001.
"My neighbor's animal was sick. They slaughtered
it and we bought the meat. I washed it, boiled and we ate it. The next day a splinter
cut my finger and it immediately swelled like a big black bruise," she says
showing a long scar on her arm. "The next day my arm had swollen and my temperature
had risen. In Armavir a doctor cleaned my wound and sent me back home.
bruises appeared on my neighbor's arm, who slaughtered his animal. One of the
doctors in Armavir made a diagnosis of anthrax." Four people from the village
were infected with cutaneous anthrax from the same meat.
Animals are infected
with anthrax from the soil where bacilli can live for centuries as spores. When
grass becomes sparse and short, grazing animals can also become infected from
swallowing grains of soil.
Vaccination is 80 percent successful against
anthrax. After every incidence of the disease, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture
have pointed out that even vaccinated animals can become infected.
in every case in Armenia, anthrax has come from cattle that had not been vaccinated.
vaccinated animals can be infected with anthrax," says professor of the Academy
of Agriculture Suren Grigoryan. "But that must be a coincidence when an animal
with weak immunity eats soil infected with anthrax. But it happens very rarely.
Delayed vaccination of animals becomes a cause of anthrax in Armenia. There can
be more cases. We know only about the ones that have been reported."
Preventable, but has lingering effects
"Last year in the spring my
10 sheep miscarried," says resident of Irind village Hranush Hipoyan. "I
didn't understand what had happened, then they came and examined my animals. It
became clear they were sick with brucellosis. In spring brucellosis was detected
in 13 sheep and in autumn in 5 sheep. Now there are only 5 sheep left out of 31.
I don't know, but they are probably sick too. This year nobody comes to examine
them. What should I do? Is it my fault?"
Animals sick with brucellosis
were detected at almost every household in one of four districts of Hranush's
Hranush and her son became infected as well and the illness has
had lingering effects.
"Last year I was pushing a wheelbarrow,"
she says. "But this year I can't because my bones ache. My son and I were
sweating and had high temperature. I was given injections but it didn't help."
Last year, 17 people in the village of 820 were made sick by bucellosis
Here's the part infected by foot and mouth desease.
is transmitted through consuming milk or meat. It can also be transmitted if the
spoiled meat or the excrement of an infected animal touches an open wound.
disease can be found in small cattle (sheep and goats), large cattle, and pigs.
The most dangersous type, through small cattle, can be fatal. The disease cannot
be spread from human to human.
Fifty percent of those contracting the disease
do not get completely cured, and, like Hranoush Hipoyan, suffer after effects
that include aching joints and fever, especially in wet weather. Antibotics are
Last year, 143 people were made sick by brucellosis in Armenia.
Sixty-four cases were reported in the first seven months of this year.
Bakoyan got sick with brucellosis six years ago, but didn't know what the ailment
"My left side weakened and I couldn't even hold a glass in my
hand. Doctor from Vedi said I had a stroke and began treating me from that,"
she says. "Later my right arm weakened and doctors thought it was rheumatism.
My temperature had been rising and my whole body was shaking. One day my husband
told me, maybe you have brucellosis. Doctors examined me and, yes, it was brucellosis."
Now she feels relatively well, however, she knows that pain caused by brucellosis
be present the rest of her life. Haje doesn't know how she was infected. Their
animals were examined but none of them was sick. Her husband sells meat and it
is assumed that she was infected from meat or milk they had bought.
one sick with brucellosis is 10 year old Armen from Yerevan, who was infected
from cheese. His sister Teymira says that they always have 4-5 sorts of cheese
in their fridge. They buy cheese from markets and Armen was probably infected
Gohar Tamazyan says brucellosis usually does not have chronic
damage for young people.
Asatur Sargsyan from Irind, however, has been bothered
by brucellosis for 20 years.
"Every autumn and spring I take pills
as my joints ache," he says.
Last year two of his 10 sheep were detected
with brucellosis. "How it happened that other sheep didn't get infected,
nobody knows, as all the sheep were couple with one ram" Sargsyan says. "Nobody
comes to explain things."
Brucellosis is spread among cattle during
breeding and one sick bull or ram could infect an entire herd. For that reason,
Asatur is sure he has other infected sheep as well. (It can also be spread animal-to-animal
Last year, in only one district of Irind, brucellosis was
detected in 40 out of 400 animals. Villagers say that the disease began spreading
four years ago from the neighboring Verin Bazmaberd village, where 120 of 400
animals had been infected with brucellosis only in one district.
are four districts in Irind, in which there are some 2,500 animals.
year only two districts were tested. And as of this report, no inspections have
been made in Irind this year.
Foot-and-mouth disease: Officials say it doesn't
Head of Veterinary Inspection, Anushavan Aghajanyan, states that there
is no foot-and-mouth disease in Armenia.
In Irind, however, Asatur Sargsyan
lifts his cow's hoof and shows what he says is evidence of the disease.
has been in the stable for ten days and it will be here for ten days more until
it recovers," Sargsyan says. He treats his cow's foot with solutions.
laws require seven types of cattle vaccinations, including one against foot-and-mouth
disease. Only two vaccines have been administered in Irind. Sargsyan says his
neighbors' cows also are infected.
Humans can be infected with hoof-and-mouth,
but the effects are usually not serious (mouth and sometime skin ulceration) and
The economic impact, however, can be more damaging than the
physical effects. Cattle grow thin, "like boards", villagers say, and
milk production drop off.
North of Yerevan, in the Aragats valley, foot-and-mouth
is said to be common. Cattle in the area have been vaccinated; but in this case,
disease seems to be a result not of neglect, but of poor medicine.
disease is everywhere and it damages the economy," says Suren Grigoryan.
"there are two causes of its spread. The first one is when vaccine is of
low quality and has low immune degree. And the second cause is that animals often
get sick with foot-and-mouth disease of the O-type as vaccine against the O-type
is of low quality."
Of the seven required vaccines, the foot-and-mouth
vaccine is the only one produced in Armenia (at the Veterinary Scientific and
To be effective, foot-and-mouth vaccine must be stored
in conditions not exceeding eight degrees centigrade. It is carried in special
cases for refrigeration when the temperature exceeds eight. But specialists say
there are not enough cases in the region for storing the vaccine and that it turns
to water during hot days.
But cattle vaccinated during the coldest seasons
have also been infected.
"Vaccine cannot become too warm in winter,"
says head of the Anti-Epidemic Diagnostic Center Schmidt Vardapetyan, hinting
that vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease is not prepared properly.
the field is barren, you blame the hail," he says.