Claim: Climate caused the Russian Anthrax Outbreak

A photomicrograph of Bacillus anthracis bacteria using Gram-stain technique.

A photomicrograph of Bacillus anthracis bacteria using Gram-stain technique. By Photo Credit:Content Providers(s): CDC – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #2226.Note: Not all PHIL images are public domain; be sure to check copyright status and credit authors and content providers.English | Slovenščina | +/−, Public Domain,

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to the Guardian, unusually warm weather probably wouldn’t happen without our help.

Anthrax outbreak triggered by climate change sickens dozens in Arctic Circle

Seventy-two nomadic herders, including 41 children, were hospitalised in far north Russia after the region began experiencing abnormally high temperatures.

A 12-year-old boy in the far north of Russia has died in an outbreak of anthrax that experts believe was triggered when unusually warm weather caused the release of the bacteria.

The boy was one of 72 nomadic herders, including 41 children, hospitalised in the town of Salekhard in the Arctic Circle, after reindeer began dying en masse from anthrax.

Five adults and two other children have been diagnosed with the disease, which is known as “Siberian plague” in Russian and was last seen in the region in 1941.

More than 2,300 reindeer have died, and at least 63 people have been evacuated from a quarantine area around the site of the outbreak.

“We literally fought for the life of each person, but the infection showed its cunning,”the Yamal governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, told the Interfax news agency. “It returned after 75 years and took the life of a child.”

Anthrax spores can survive in frozen human and animal remains for hundreds of years, waiting to be released by a thaw, according to Alexei Kokorin, head of WWF Russia’s climate and energy programme.

Such anomalous heat is rare for Yamal, and that’s probably a manifestation of climate change,” he said.

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So how is Anthrax normally contracted?

Working with infected animals or animal products

Most people who get sick from anthrax are exposed while working with infected animals or animal products such as wool, hides, or hair.

Inhalation anthrax can occur when a person inhales spores that are in the air (aerosolized) during the industrial processing of contaminated materials, such as wool, hides, or hair.

Cutaneous anthrax can occur when workers who handle contaminated animal products get spores in a cut or scrape on their skin.

Eating raw or undercooked meat from infected animals

People who eat raw or undercooked meat from infected animals may get sick with gastrointestinal anthrax . This usually occurs in countries where livestock are not routinely vaccinated against anthrax and food animals are not inspected prior to slaughter.

In the United States, gastrointestinal anthrax has rarely been reported. This is because yearly vaccination of livestock is recommended in areas of the United States where animals have had anthrax in the past, and because of the examination of all food animals, which ensures that they are healthy at the time of slaughter.

Injecting heroin

A newly discovered type of anthrax is injection anthrax . This type of anthrax has been seen in northern Europe in people injecting heroin. So far, no cases of injection anthrax have been reported in the United States.

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Although Russia has serious problems with drug abuse, we can hopefully rule out the injection route, given so many children in one area became ill.

The much more likely source of infection in this case is eating undercooked meat, from infected animals which have not been vaccinated. Consumption of raw meat and animal products is a cultural tradition in Siberia.

Blaming a few unusually hot days on climate seems a bit of a stretch. Tying “climate” to a small though deadly outbreak of an obviously endemic disease is nonsense. In my opinion, blaming “climate” is just a convenient means for the Russian branch of the WWF to try to associate a tragic though preventable healthcare disaster with their global warming narrative.


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Mumbles McGuirck

So, according to the Guardian’s logic, 1941 was as warm a time as present. How could that be when there was much less CO2 in the atmosphere back then?


Yes, I think Eric missed main point here.
Loony Tune George Monbiot is also spouting this anthrax outbreak as proof of AGW:

In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed.

Yes George. This is physical PROOF that temperatures were at least as warm if not warmer in that region in 1941 !!!
It looks like the famous polar Arctic only amplification is nothing new.
They will happily argue black is white to attribute anything which changes to AGW.

Robert B

‘It returned after 75 years’
Oh dear! So it is nothing new, and certainly nothing to do with SUVs then.
Dont these climate clowns even take breath before they plant their foot in their mouths?

PH, see below. Anthrax is a very interesting bacterium. Well adapted to a most unusual survival strategy. Neither alcohol nor iodine nor my topical antimicrobial get endospores. U.S. Gov National Security counsel asked us to test on related organism B. Subtilis. Have to use very toxic quats or strong corrosive oxidizers to disinfect C diff endospores in hospitals.

Richard of NZ

Anthrax is not that difficult to remove. Gruinard Island just off the west coast of Scotland was the site of a large scale experiment in biological warfare in the 1940’s and ended up extremely contaminated. It was eventually decontaminated by spraying the island with formaldehyde in sea water, formaldehyde (formalin) being a common disinfectant. Also the use of alcohol works very well, provided it is diluted to aabout 70% with water. Pure alcohol dehydrates the spore wall making it impervious to penetration by the alcohol but the addition of water prevents the dessication permitting the alcohol to penetrate and allowing the alcohol to denature the spore proteins. Dilute alcohol also works well with mycobacteria which, with their waxy cell walls, when slightly dehydrated are nearly impervious to penetration by biocides.
Bacillus sp. whilst very common in nature are not usually much of a problem in hospitals because the large baccili are quite easily removed by normal mechanical cleaning.


The only solution is to permanently ban fossil fuel burning in Siberia and all of Russia.

Yeah, I caught the reference to 1941 as well. Major logic fail!


Unless this was a case of spontaneous generation, that is NOT how anthrax gets started.

Keith Willshaw

There have been periodic anthrax outbreaks in Siberia throughout history. In 19th century Russia the disease was known as Siberski iazve or Siberian plague.

What happened in the nineteen sixties when we had anthrax in the Canadian Buffaloes park. it lasted about 5-7 years.

The Guardian has a well-earned reputation for printing this sort of outlandish nonsense, always blaming global warming / climate change. Have these MSM idiots not realised that one reason their circulation figures are dropping dramatically is due to their reputation for printing such nonsense? They already face a tremendous battle with other forms of news dissemination, and this only hastens their way to an early demise!


Climate Change, Anthropogenic Climate Change, or Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change?
Global Warming, Anthropogenic Global Warming, etc.
The prophecy known by many names claims another headline.

Janice Moore

Gullible Lad: Well, I for one believe it. Climate change has been causing ALL THE PROBLEMS IN MY LIFE SINCE I WAS BORN!
Sam Smugly: Oh, you silly. Stop it. You know that’s impossible. You’re 59. Climate has only been changing since 1988.
GL: SEE!!????? It even changed my BIRTH certificate.
SS: GL. I’m the guy who put a snowball down your back in 1978 WHEN WE WERE BOTH 15 YEARS OLD.
GL: I wasn’t 15 in 1978.
SS: Oh. Huh. Well……………. huh.
GL: Global warming makes it hard to do math in your head.
SS: Boy, you ain’t a woofin’.
Dear Mr. Worrall: I apologize for this “and now for something comPLETELY different” comment. But, it helped me so very much to write it that I hope you will understand. After just now spending 51 minutes on hold, when I saw, “… climate caused” for the 17,399th time in my life, I HAD TO DO SOMETHING ZANY! (Nope. Don’t know why. Just know it works.)
Thank you.
(sane only because of the WUWT comment box — New slogan for site: “WUWT — Saving the sanity of commenters around the world! pleaseflingfunds”)
And, now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Guardian AGW garbage. There are two families of bacteria that form endospores: Bacillus and Clostridia. Almost all the species in both are nasty. C. Difficile is a major hospital infection problem. Give antibiotics, the bacteria form spores that ignore the antibiotic and can reinfect. C. Tetani is tetanus. B. Anthracis is anthrax. Spore formation is a survival mechanism. In anthrax case, when it kills an infected animal. All the bacteria that killed the animal convert themselves to endospores as the corpse decomposes. These can remain viable in the soil at the death spot for over 100 years. The spores get ingested or inhaled by another grazing animal feeding at that spot, and the cycle begins anew. Happens in Texas after spring rains as grass grows. Siberia has had two major and several minor anthrax outbreaks (mainly in reindeer) in the 20th century. A reindeer feeding in ordinary summer July over a spot where a previous one died probably started this so far ‘minor’ outbreak. Over 2500 reindeer dead and 70 something nomadic herders sickened. Is treatable with antibiotics if caught early enough. Those dead reindeer, even if gathered up and properly buried in the Yamal permafrost, will eventually start another cycle.

John Harmsworth

I had associated anthrax with wet conditions as well. I suppose in the North where permafrost is present, it might more likely be associated with thawing subsoil.

We had an outbreak in Santa Clara county area about 1977? when some grass was grazed too short and died. A dusty dirt patch resulted and several cattle snuffing and snorting near it inhaled spores from somtime in the 1800s. (last reported outbreak in that spot)
In my home town, a small farm town: in high school biology circa 1968, we learned about it as “wool sorters disease” and how to identify the inevitable black skin spots so as to get treatment before it gets airborn…
ANYONE working with cattle, sheep, wool, hides, and related needs to know about anthrax as it is a normal job hazard and always has been.


The Russians are so far ahead of us…
…they started climate change 75 years ago

I have in the past had the job of advising an American embassy regarding risks of anthrax and this recalls to mind a 1979 outbreak in Sverdlovsk USSR reportedly caused by a leak from a bio weapons facility, infecting 79 individuals with 69 deaths and leaving a much larger plume of livestock deaths. These were primarily inhalation anthrax which has a much higher risk of rapid death. The boy in the case above most likely contracted anthrax from eating contaminated and inadequately cooked meat as with many of his tribes people. While gastrointestinal infection is unlikely directly related to weather, the outbreak among the reindeer is quite likely due to spores germinating in the soil, and that could be caused by warming and increased available moisture. However, as we all know a month of unusual warmth hardly qualifies as climate change, and if it has happened well in the past before the invention of the SUV then the conditions then must have been equally conducive without the assistance of humans.


Here’s an article from 1881.

August 01, 1881,
Intelligence reaches us from St. Petersburg, that the disease known as the “Siberian plague” has appeared in several Provinces of the Russian Empire; and that in villages in the St. Petersburg district and along the Warsaw line it has already occasioned great fatality among cattle and … link

Here’s another late 1800s
Siberian plague is another name for anthrax. It was well known even as we were emerging from the little ice age. Anybody who wants to blame the recent outbreak on global warming has some serious work to do.


What if it was directly caused by AGW? For one summer death they save 50 winter deaths on the usual statistical examination – millions are alive today because of the recovery from the LIA (whether or not we assisted in that). BILLIONS are alive because of the extra 120pts of airborne plant food who would otherwise starve in an annual famine.

Curious George

From Washington Post, July 28: “Anthrax sickens 13 in western Siberia, and a thawed-out reindeer corpse may be to blame.” Reindeer are vegetarians. Not people.

Its because Reindeer are vegetarians that anthrax recurs. See comment above for details. Nothing to do with AGW. A clever and unusual bacterial survival strategy. Works the same in dry unfrozen Texas as wet frozen Yamal. Why all US cattle are vaccinated against anthrax. No newly thawed carcass necessary in either place. And a dead July reindeer in Yamal will be pretty putrid before the late September freeze comes. No different than an anthrax killed Texas cow. A science experiment you can do at home with a piece of raw meat left out for a few weeks at any temperature above freezing.

Curious George

I am speculating on a possibility that the corpse was not decomposed. Reindeer would not touch it. People would; nomadic vegetarians don’t survive above Arctic Circle; people get their vitamin C from raw meat. Eating thawed meat would not be out of ordinary – assuming that reindeer herders don’t live in a city.

“Such anomalous heat is rare for Yamal, and that’s probably a manifestation of climate change,”
It is not possible to establish a link between these events and global warming and they have failed to show a link between global warming and fossil fuel emissions. Their attempt to link all bad events to fossil fuel emissions is more desperation than science.


Here is the Australian version
“This re-emergence of a long-gone deadly disease following record high temperatures in Siberia reminds us of the fragility of the relationships between humans, our environment and the microbes with which we co-exist. Climate change will trigger new, disruptive and perhaps poorly anticipated challenges to health with which we will have to cope.”


Notice how the reference to the 1941 outbreak is omitted in our taxpayer funded broadcaster version? Could it be something to do with the writer of the opinion piece being a councillor on the Climate Council? Nah, that would make me look like a conspiracy nut…


Weird – I had a reply here which is in limbo?
[Yes, it happens. .mod]

Janice Moore

Bulldust: You used a magic word (spelled wrong intentionally): “c0nsp1racy.”
Just FYI, I think I hit the spam (spam!! lol) bin with a clunk earlier for the words “s@ne” and “s@n1ty” (not sure, though).


I was referring to myself in jest … well OK then!
I was just pointing our that the Oz ABC (taxpayer funded of course) version of the story omits the factoid about the previous outbreak in 1941. The author of said opinion piece at the ABC is a councillor at the Climate Council. Interesting coincidence. Coincidence is allowed, yes?


Ahh it’s back … never mind … carry on then >.<

Pop Piasa

Jeez, nobody linked the Rachel Carson inspired ban on DDT with the recurrence of widespread Malaria and the needless suffering and mortality that might have been prevented.
I guess that was climate too…


DDT has never been banned for combatting malarial mosquitos – it is still used for that


Several years ago, I was at a volunteer meeting at a certain zoo (I talked to visitors about animals in a section of the zoo). One of the keepers told us about a recent large outbreak of anthrax that severely affected Grevy’s Zebras in a particular part of Africa. She said that these outbreaks occurred every so often in different places and each outbreak tended to impact some species more than others (zebras this time, some other species next time, etc.). She also stated that this was NORMAL AND NATURAL.
Anthrax naturally occurs in soil. It is not just hanging out in frozen corpses waiting for AGW to release it from its bonds. *rolls eyes* Occam’s razor: Some reindeer happened to graze in an area where anthrax lives in the soil. Food chain led to humans being infected.
It is terrible, and one certainly feels for the families. However, it would be far more helpful to encourage the people to abandon the dangerous practice/tradition of eating undercooked/raw meat, rather than making spurious claims that “climate change” is the culprit.

Pop Piasa

Well put. At least they didn’t receive the anthrax in the mail.


Here’s a 2011 scientific paper specifically highlighting the problems in Siberia from thawing animal burial grounds…

Robert from oz

There is nothing that they’re not in their shifty little minds not prepared to blame on burning coal !

Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere… climate is not blamed for brutal cold snap killing 50,000 Alpacas in Peru!

Rhoda R

Are the alpaca dying from the cold or from the destroyed grasses? Not that it makes any difference to the farmers but while the government can’t do anything about the cold, it might be able to fly in hay or some other foods until the grass recovers.

Pop Piasa

I think the mention of them being nomadic herders explains their risk factor for Anthrax more than the current weather patterns.

What about the trees!
Did the Yamal trees appreciate the warmth and grow huge rings for Mr. Manniacal to misrepresent?
Speaking of spreading bad spores… Only this infection causes sick hockey sticks.

Pop Piasa

An infection of reasoning, to be sure. dismissal of that which is disagreeable as data.

Pop Piasa

Or, there is always an adjustment that can be conjured to support the homogenization of historic cycles.

Mike Wryley

Reminds me about a wool processing factory in the eastern United States, a large timber frame building built in the late 1800s ( if memory serves me correctly, odds are less than even). Employees would come down with anthrax from time to time ( nature of the business vis a vis wool), and no matter what method was used to disinfect the facility, people still got sick and probably died. The building was finally burned to the ground.


Anthrax that is forming spores takes up silica, which naturally is in soil water, that then arrays in a layer of nanometer particles. It is the “mother”cell that somehow gets the silica to build up in the spore maturing inside.
Ths silica encapsulation gives the anthrax spore resistance to acidic environmental forces when laying around. Then if ingested the silica particles protect the anthrax spores from acidic digestive pH of mammals.
The process of sporolation itself is not dependant on silica. In refering to sporolating anthrax taking up silica to it’s coat I want to make clear this is not a feature of the spore’s most outer layer; in anthrax there is e loose exo-sporium that is actually it’s most outer layer. Thus it is not a feature that makes a dry spore be more readily moved around & about from slippery silica, nor related to UV protection.

Pop Piasa

So, the higher the silica content of the soil, the higher the odds of spore survival?


Silica is pretty abundant in soil, so I don’t think that anthrax access to silica is an issue. It is silica in the water content of the soil which anthrax “mother” uses. There is apparently a threshold of how much silica will be on the spore coat & I think in some instances silica can account for up to almost 6% of a spore’s weight. Another thing to point out is, that when discussing “weaponized” anthrax
that spore has been treated somehow (why hard to weaponize) with silica on the spore surface exo-sporium & that is completely different than what occurs in nature.

Bob Koss

July average for 1915 is the record for Salekhard at 19.53C. This July.only 18.8C. Global cooling?


This article ignores the particular way in which anthrax persists in this area of Siberia…
This area has permafrost and corpses of people and animals are usually not deeply buried, but get frozen into top layer of permafrost…
anthrax survives as spores in frozen bodies and when permafrosted corpses thaw, spreads into the water supply
this outbreak is undoubtedly caused by thawing victims, human or reindeer, from the 1941 outbreak.
And up to you whether you accept the science of climate change and ascribe that as the cause of unusually high temps/thawing permafrost (this is the region where those peculiar holes possibly from methane outbursts have been seen: its permafrost is melting)

Johann Wundersamer

‘And up to you whether you accept the science of climate change and ascribe that as the cause of unusually high temps/thawing permafrost (this is the region where those peculiar holes possibly from methane outbursts have been seen: its permafrost is melting)’
warming / cooling rarely extincts live that evolved for more than millions of years. it mere shifts the boundaries of habitats.
extinction is to await by evolving strong competition in habitats.


And how does that relate to thawing permafrost or anthrax outbreaks (related to thawing permafrost)?

Johann Wundersamer

‘methane is thawing’ – yes, while on some locations methane is freezing on the bare surface on other sites methane is likely to be thawing.

“A mystery crater spotted in the frozen Yamal peninsula in Siberia earlier this month was probably caused by methane released as permafrost thawed, researchers in Russia say”

Sweet Old Bob

google pingo .


” while on some locations methane is freezing on the bare surface on other sites methane is likely to be thawing”
Must be a rather cool summer then, since the thawing point of methane is -296 F.

I’ve never been to Yamal (a huge peninsula, larger than California, I guess) but I knew a man who spent several summers there in the 1970s. He told me that in July and August it can be very hot there, to the extent that a member of his team had a heat stroke. All of them, being pale-skinned Russians, managed to get burned by the Sun, and were “almost eaten alive” by gnats. There are literally clouds of gnats there.
I should mention that Eskimo-like deer hurders of North Siberia are regularly eating raw meat and raw animal fat (of seals and deer), it is a necessary part of their diet, without it they wouldn’t be able to survive. Their physiology is tuned up to this diet, changing it is out of question. Gruniad journos may not be aware of that — if they are aware at all, that is.

Anthrax was weaponized in the USSR. Somebody remembers that outbreak in the suburb of Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) in the 1970s? The whole population of that town dropped dead on the spot. Photos taken from helicopters during decontamination showed corpses of the people who stood in a queue to buy something, lying on the ground without even breaking the queue.
Since deer-hurders of Yamal had time to be hospitalized, I guess this time it’s a natural strain of anthrax.


We have had a minor anthrax outbreak in Sweden this summer too, though it has only affected cattle and horses, at least so far. And the summer here hasn’t been particularly warm, and there is certainly no permafrost that can melt. It’s a rather peculiar outbreak since it has affected several farms at some distance from each other and with no obvious connections.