Anthrax Lesion on Skin ("Anthrax PHIL 2033" by CDC/ James H. Steele)
Infectious Diseases

Anthrax in Odisha: Time for One Health in India?

An outbreak of anthrax in Koraput, Odisha, and the lack of public health information around it prompts advocacy on the adoption of the One Health framework in India as well.

If this news article in the Odisha Sun Times is to be believed, then:

Deadly anthrax is spreading its wings in the backward Koraput district of Odisha with two victims already identified in Medamgandhi village of Patangi block. … ADMO Arun Kumar Padhi made a visit to the village with his medical team to create an awareness program to contain the disease. “We are keeping a close vigil on the disease” Padhi told OST.

There are no updates of this outbreak (that I could locate) on any government sites and the IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Program) website, which is supposed to provide up-to-date information on infectious disease outbreaks across the nation has not been updated since the 43rd week (last week of October). So, all we have to go by is the news article. However, this is significant because the article seems credible and quotes the ADMO!

Though the details are very sketchy, it is unclear whether veterinary public health measures have been brought up. In cases of such sporadic, concentrated outbreaks, it is most likely that the disease was picked up from a bovine source unless some other factor is at play (which would be unlikely in a setting like rural Odisha). However, we have no way of knowing for sure from the news article which barely scratches the surface of the issue.

Anthrax Lesion on Skin ("Anthrax PHIL 2033" by CDC/ James H. Steele)
Anthrax Lesion on Skin (“Anthrax PHIL 2033” by CDC/ James H. Steele)

This outbreak, on one hand, shows how poor information dissemination is in the public health domain across India despite intense adoption of information technology and using IDSP as an almost real-time tracker of outbreaks. On the other hand, it shows how poorly veterinary and preventive public health systems are associated with one another. With almost all recent emerging and reemerging infections being put down to zoonotic sources, this makes it all the more important to have the integrated, one health approach for such cases.

The divorce of veterinary sciences and public health system has cost us valuable time in instituting a properly planned rabies control program on the national level. There is no saying how much harm it shall do to the study and control of outbreaks such as this.

Skeptic Oslerphile. PhD Student in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Past: 1) Public Health Scientist and Program Manager, Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. 2) Scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases; 3) Senior Research Associate, Public Health Foundation of India. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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