It Came From the Permafrost: Once Dormant Anthrax Microbes Cause Outbreak In Siberia

Two humans and thousands of reindeer dead as zombie microbes emerge during 95F Siberian heat spell


Russian authorities have sealed off the area and declared there is no epidemic. That’s how you know there is an epidemic.

As the climate continues to collapse under the influence of global warming, you will notice more headlines that sound like they belong to a 1950′s science fiction movie. But the latest weird warming-related event near Salekhard, Siberia is absolutely true: the August 2016 anthrax outbreak in Russia’s (somewhat less) frozen hinterlands is caused by the awakening of dormant anthrax spores from a previous epidemic. A boy and his grandmother are dead and 90 other people have been hospitalized. About 200 “specialty” troops have been sent to decontaminated the area, which is currently sealed off.

This particular strain of anthrax bacteria – a nasty little microbe that has been used in biological warfare – originated in infected reindeer carcasses that have been frozen since 1945. In that year, an anthrax outbreak wiped out a large portion of the herd, but was contained when winter came and the bacteria froze into dormancy. Unusually warm weather patterns have been thawing the permafrost in many Arctic areas, releasing methane trapped for tens of thousands of years, collapsing infrastructure and, of course, opening new opportunities for microbes.

This will become another reality in the new normal, as abrupt climate change allows diseases and invasive species to move into new environments. See Zika and Killer Bees.

In other Arctic news of the strange, see our previous story on trembling tundra, featuring methane bubbles destabilizing the grasslands of the north. Also related, check our 2014  story on a 30,000-year-old virus in suspended animation that was found to be still infectious. That one doesn’t kill humans, but we don’t know what else in in there. Soon we will.

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