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Suspected anthrax kills 8 Afghans who ate sick camel

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Posted: December 29, 2007 3:39 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    KABUL, Afghanistan — Eight Afghans who ate an infected camel as part of a religious celebration died of what health experts suspect is a rare case of naturally occurring anthrax, officials said Saturday.
    The deaths, in the southwestern province of Nimroz, included two women and an infant, said Dr. Abdullah Fahim, an adviser to Afghanistan’s health minister. Ten others fell sick.
    Officials cannot say positively that the deaths were anthrax related until laboratory results — expected in the next two days — are completed, said Fahim.
    The outbreak began when two men in a remote area of southwest Afghanistan along the border with Iran tried to sell a sick camel, said Ghulam Dastagir Azad, the governor of Nimroz province.
    Nobody bought the camel and the men instead killed it and distributed the meat to needy families, as is the custom during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
    The two men ‘‘were the first victims. They cooked the meat and 12 hours later they were dead,’’ said Azad. ‘‘Then some of the families who cooked (the meat) in their homes became victims.’’
    Anthrax — an acute infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium — occurs in wild and domestic animals like cattle, sheep, goats and camels, according to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    It can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals, or when anthrax spores are used as a weapon.
    Fahim said there is no evidence to suggest terrorism played any part in the outbreak.
    Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.

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