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9 May 2017

More Diseases Feared to be Buried in Melting Permafrost

Previously on Keep Me Warm, we’ve discussed the risk of a smallpox outbreak, due to the bacterium potentially living in the melting Arctic permafrost. Further information on side-effects of the melting permafrost has been revealed by the BBC, with the risk of disease increasing creating worry and concern amongst scientists.

Anthrax, a disease common in live-stock which can lead to pneumonia, blood infection and even death, broke out in August 2016 in Yamal Peninsula, which is a remote part of the Siberian tundra. After investigation of 20 hospitalised civilians and one fatality due to the disease, the theory comes from the disease being released from the thawed permafrost.

A reindeer corpse, said to have been killed by anthrax, was exposed due to melting in the 2016 heat wave, after 75 years of being buried in the permafrost. The exposed corpse infected the nearby water, soil and food supply of 2,000 grazing reindeer, which then led to them and a small number of humans being infected.

The BBC report continues in saying that in the 20th century alone, the number of reindeer which died from anthrax was more than one million, and so the melting permafrost - due to global warming - could release a worrying amount anthrax bacterium.

Scientists have also discovered the Spanish flu virus; intact from buried corpses from 1918 in the Arctic tundra, as well as the smallpox disaster in Siberia which reduced one town’s population by a whopping 40% was caused by exposed disease from melting permafrost.

The anthrax virus is able to withstand the test of time and become infectious once more due to it forming spores, which are able to survive for more than a century, being extremely hardy.  The temperature of the Arctic Circle is rising approximately three times faster than the rest of the world, and so many harmful bacteria could potentially be released as the permafrost thaws. 

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.