Russia’s Siberian tundra has, in some places, been 10º F hotter than normal so far this summer.
Which is bringing back to life long-dormant bacteria – including Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax, caused by coming into contact with the bacteria’s spores.
Anthrax is highly infectious and, although there are vaccines and early treatment with antibotics is generally successful, it’s frequently deadly for animals. About 2,500 reindeer have now died in Siberia.
So too has a boy and his grandmother, after eating infected venison.
Coming under suspicion for spreading the bacteria spores is an old Nenets cemetery, 40 kilometres from the current centre of the infection. The Nenets traditionally dispose of their dead by putting them in a wooden box on an open hill. But it’s also the case that many long-dead anthrax-infected reindeer carcases are starting to surface.
In 1979 there was an accidental release of anthrax at Sverdlovsk in the former Soviet Union. This leaked from a microbiology laboratory, causing the deaths of many reindeer, and also thought to be responsible for at least 66 human deaths.
Picture source: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons