Five patients in Andhra, undergoing treatment for skin infections at the King George Hospital (KGH) in Visakhapatnam, tested positive for cutaneous anthrax on Tuesday.
Addressing the media, doctors said that the disease may have infected the patients, after they consumed the meat of a goat around 20 days ago, which was infected with Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes the disease.
The victims have been identified as K Krishna (60), J Somanna (45), G Mangalayya (33), J Gundu (50) and P Gundu (38).
The New Indian Express reported that the results of the samples that were sent to the lab, arrived on Tuesday, and the patients tested positive.
"The cutaneous anthrax spores can thrive for more than 70 years in the soil. The animals get the spores into their stomach while grazing. Tribal people contract infection if they eat the infected meat or through cuts and abrasions in their body while cutting the animal flesh," TNIE quoted B Balachandrudu, HoD of dermatology department of KGH, as saying.
However, doctors said that there was no reason to panic, and the disease could be cured, and it could be contained with the help of vaccination drives.
Besides District Medical and Health Officer N Uma Sundari and KGH Superintendent G Arjuna, State Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao also visited the anthrax-affected patients on Tuesday.
The Minister told media persons that officials were working actively to curb the spread of the disease in the villages where they were reported.
He said that the Animal Husbandry Department would ensure that the animals infected with the disease were taken care of, and added that the soil would also be tested at Kodipunjuvalasa, where the victims hailed from.
Anthrax cases are reported from Vizag's Agency areas like Chintapalli, Munchingput and Araku almost every year, as it consists of a large tribal population that live in remote areas, with no proper connectivity to health care facilities.
Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and can result in pneumonia, blood infection, and death. It mainly affects cattle, but can also spread to people.
On Tuesday, the Minister also said that officials have been alerted to organise special camps and drives, besides providing other medical facilities if necessary.