By Shakeh Avoyan
Veterinarian authorities in Yerevan are seeking preventive government measures against a possible outbreak of anthrax after detecting infected meat for the second time in three months, it emerged on Wednesday.
Armen Avagian, deputy director of the Yerevan municipality’s Veterinarian Service Center, told RFE/RL that the case was registered on October 14 in one of the city’s retail markets where a villager from the eastern Gegharkunik region tried to sell more than 100 kilograms of beef. He said the cow carcass was found to be infected with anthrax during a mandatory veterinarian inspection and was destroyed afterwards.
The animal was reportedly slaughtered in a village just outside Yerevan. Officials said they are currently looking for its skin which can spread the deadly disease even if buried underground. “We will have a dangerous disease source unless we find and destroy it,” said Tigran Gasparian, the chief veterinarian at the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture. He said no humans are known to have contracted it so far.
According to Avagian, the discovery should be a wake-up call to the Armenian government which he said must tighten regulations for meat production and sales. He said the municipal service inspects all shops and markets selling meat on a daily basis but is unable to fully guarantee its safety because cattle and sheep are routinely slaughtered in rural areas without undergoing an appropriate medical examination by local authorities. He also complained that various veterinarian agencies across the country have no clearly defined responsibilities and do not coordinate their work.
Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations urge consumers to exercise greater caution when buying meat products. “That state controls are lax is obvious,” said Armen Poghosian of the Union of Consumers.