Anthrax disease: Foreign Office issues travel warning as Thailand on high alert after Laos reports outbreak of 'serious' disease

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The Foreign Office has issued a travel warning as Thailand is on high alert after an outbreak of “serious” disease anthrax has been reported in Laos

The Foreign Office has issued a health travel warning to UK holidaymakers heading to Laos, a country that borders Thailand. The government has updated its information on anthrax after there has been an outbreak in Laos with more than 50 suspected human cases reported.

The Foreign Office says on its website: “Anthrax has been found in cattle and buffalo near the tourist areas of 4000 Islands, Pakse and the Bolaven Plateau. Anthrax is a serious disease that can be transmitted to humans. 

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“Avoid contact with cattle and buffalo and make sure meat is thoroughly cooked. Seek medical attention if you are exposed to infected animals or show symptoms.”

Anthrax spreads through bacteria in soil and commonly infects grazing livestock and wild animals but it can also infect humans and be deadly in some cases. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered officials to closely monitor the disease and to "protect the public".

Humans can become infected by breathing in the spores, eating contaminated food or touching bacteria with broken skin, for instance when handling diseased animals. Thailand has had no reports of human anthrax cases since 2001. The most it has ever reported in a single year is 102, in 1995, according to the ministry of public health.

The Foreign Office has issued a travel warning as Thailand is on high alert after an outbreak of “serious” disease anthrax has been reported in Laos. (Photo: Getty Images)The Foreign Office has issued a travel warning as Thailand is on high alert after an outbreak of “serious” disease anthrax has been reported in Laos. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Foreign Office has issued a travel warning as Thailand is on high alert after an outbreak of “serious” disease anthrax has been reported in Laos. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Symptoms of anthrax vary depending on the type of exposure. A skin-related (cutaneous) anthrax infection enters your body through your skin, usually through a cut or other sore. It's by far the most common route of the disease and also the mildest. Signs and symptoms include:

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  • A raised, itchy bump resembling an insect bite that quickly develops into a painless sore with a black centre
  • Swelling in the sore and nearby lymph glands
  • Sometimes, flu-like symptoms including fever and headache

A gastrointestinal anthrax infection results from eating undercooked meat from an infected animal. It can affect your gastrointestinal tract from your throat to your colon. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Severe, bloody diarrhoea in the later stages of the disease
  • Sore throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen neck

Inhalation anthrax develops when you breathe in anthrax spores. It's the most deadly form of the disease, and is often fatal, even with treatment. Initial signs and symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms for a few hours or days, such as sore throat, mild fever, fatigue and muscle aches
  • Mild chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Coughing up blood
  • Painful swallowing
  • High fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shock — an acute medical condition involving collapse of the circulatory system
  • Meningitis

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