- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
April 30, 2004

Outbreak in Aygabats: Animal deaths, threat to humans continue to plague village

A case of human anthrax infection is believed to have been found in the Aygabats village of Shirak region. Last week, ArmeniaNow reported an outbreak of the disease that had caused the deaths of 40 cattle.
Tigran Sahakyan.

On Tuesday (April 27), villager Harutyun Khachatryan, who had been in contact with the infected animals, showed symptoms of anthrax infection and was taken to hospital in Gyumri.

Doctors say Khachatryan is in satisfactory condition, but, in the village tensions are high, as animals continue to die.

“This week the number of dead animals in the village has reached 48,” says head of the village Gagik Altunyan. “The village is still in quarantine, members of the committee pay frequent visits and do tests, but our situation is still unclear.”

The outbreak started after April 15 when animals began to die following anti-anthrax vaccinations.

The chief veterinary doctor of the republic Anushavan Aghajanyan visited the village and expressed a preliminary opinion that the reason of the cattle’s death was anthrax.

A special committee was formed to determine if the cause of the outbreak was the vaccine. Tests were sent to Moscow for evaluation.

Minister of Agriculture David Lokyan would not reveal the name of the company producing the vaccine. He did say, however, that if tests proved the vaccine was faulty, compensation for the villagers would be demanded of the company.

“Information that the reason of deaths in Aygabats is our vaccine is slander,” said director of Biopreparat LLC Tigran Sahakyan.

Sahakyan says that only 15 days ago more than 400 cattle in the Vayk region were vaccinated with the same vaccine and there have been no ill effects since.

“The vaccine has been produced during five years by the same scientific group and during those years we have done 10 million vaccinations of animals in different regions of the republic,” says Sahakyan. “And there’s never been such a case. Though it’s true that vaccination time coincided with the time when animals died, that alone is not enough to accuse out company. If during five years we provided the vaccine with absolutely no problems, this already shows for itself.”

Sahakyan says that before the vaccine is administered it is tested by specialists and that such tests revealed no problems with the medicine applied in Aygabats.

The vaccine .

“There are no components in the vaccine which can cause anthrax,” he says. “The product itself can fight against anthrax but it cannot cause that disease.”

Doctor of veterinary sciences, Meruzhan Zadayan was among scientists investigating the Aygabats case and says the vaccine is not to blame.

“The anti-anthrax serum is one of the few vaccinations that has strict rules,” says Zadayan. “It is obvious that these rules have been violated in the village.”

According to the specialist, the vaccine cannot be used for instance on animals in the last stages of pregnancy, or during cold or hot weather, or on exhausted animals. Nor can it be combined with other vaccines. (In Aygabats at the time of vaccination, nights reached temperatures below freezing.)

According to Zadayan the anti-anthrax vaccine was used on cows and mixed with a separate vaccine for another disease.

“I don’t want to rush, but the problem in Aygabats is obviously different, there are indexes of several diseases,” says Sahakyan. “Not only non-vaccinated cattle has died but dogs and cats as well. They do not get infected with anthrax.”

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