Anthrax, why now?

Anthrax, why now?

In a country famous for its political and non-political swindlers, it might be wise to ask, “Why is it that the whole country is discussing a certain issue, while authorities are saying almost nothing to soothe public anxiety?” Is there a systematic deception campaign? Are Turks being fooled to discuss an artificial issue and stop discussing some very important developments? 

No one can ignore the anthrax claims for example. Sets of claims have been spreading on social media for some time. According to those unverified claims, there must be scores of Turkish citizens suffering from anthrax. Allegedly, it is all because of cows imported from Argentina before the religious Feast of Sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha. The frenzy has reached such a dimension that at a wedding dinner over the weekend, several hundred guests refrained from eating the meat served. Why? Because it is believed that in restaurants, hotels and hospitals imported meat is being served, while the grocers at the corner of almost every street are selling only the meat of domestic cows. Was it because of that frenzy that meat prices increased considerably over the past few weeks while many people were so anthrax anxiety-ridden that they have turned vegetarian, if not yet vegan? This has always been a funny country full of such paradoxes.

All of a sudden, I remembered the famous bird flu frenzy a few years ago. How many people would recall that hundreds of thousands of chickens, ducks, and turkeys were destroyed under very strict measures to avoid a national epidemic? The end result was tons of pills were consumed, many people were vaccinated and the major players of the poultry industry benefitted from the almost total extermination of chickens in villages. Even the small poultry farms could not survive that massacre in the country.

For some time there was a return to raw milk obtained directly from farms. The rising tendency in the country not to consume ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) milk dropped processed milk sales considerably. Now, UHT milk will apparently take the lead again as the anthrax-scared nation is bombarded with expert comments that UHT milk or milk boiled for at least a certain time cannot be dangerous. E-mails containing such comments from presumed veterinary experts are filling the mailboxes of everyone. All such mails start with the claim that “a close friend” or “a relative” was working at a certain hospital and they learned from them that many people were hospitalized critically because of anthrax.

In one mail, there was a claim even that off an Istanbul port there was a ship loaded with cows that were not allowed by the authorities to the dock, so the anthrax-infected cows started to die, and the importers had ordered the ship’s crew to mince the dead cows and dump the minced meat into the sea… Funny isn’t it? But people believe such stories.

Not only in Turkey but everywhere, some exceptional cases of anthrax, glanders and similar deadly diseases might be seen in cows every year. That is why the animal stock of the country is under veterinary control. There cannot be even one cow in Turkey vaccinated against animal diseases that might be seen in this country. Same is valid for other countries. Furthermore, livestock exports are carried under strict veterinary rules, though shipping has always been problematic. Still, veterinary controls must be conducted before allowing any animal into the country.

There is a claim that at the request of Russia that requirement was recently put aside by Turkey. Is it so? The authorities must come up with clear information whether there has been a letup in veterinary controls to make Vladimir Putin happy.

Just one last note, there has not been even one recorded anthrax-related death in Turkey over the past 20 years. Why this anxiety now? Is someone trying to distract our attention from something else, for example the over 70 percent devaluation of the Turkish Lira?