Deaths of deer at IIT-Madras campus not due to anthrax infection: Tamil Nadu Forest Department

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In an official statement, the chief forest conservator and chief game warden said the veterinary team examined the carcass of the three spotted deer under the supervision of the Guindy National Park game warden. All tissue and blood swab samples were collected and sent to Central University, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS), Chennai laboratory for pathological analysis.

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“The test results were received from TANUVAS on March 23rd. According to the laboratory reports, all samples given were found negative for anthrax genome. Therefore, it is hereby notified that the deaths of three spotted deer were not due to the prevalence of the anthrax bacterium,” the statement said.

The department added that officers have been instructed to closely monitor the deer’s habitat on campus and take appropriate measures to protect them.

IIT-Madras has 400 deer on its campus. On March 17, the institute said in a press release that four deer were found dead on its campus and that one sample showed the presence of anthrax and the other sample tests were inconclusive.

“Standard procedures will be followed in disposing of the carcass. The area where the carcass was found has been disinfected and cordoned off. We are following the Wildlife Warden’s advice regarding safety measures on campus,” the press release added.

The next day, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Welfare in Tamil Nadu said the vet had been asked to take samples (mouth pieces of carcasses and blood-soaked sand) and take them to TANUVAS Central University Laboratory for confirmatory diagnosis.

In addition, forest officials have been instructed to follow specific steps when disposing of the carcasses as per guidelines, including not performing an autopsy on the animals, placing the carcasses in a pit at least 6 to 8 feet deep, and covering the carcasses with thorns before burying and completely filling the pit with mud to prevent digging by stray dogs etc.

IIT-Madras had said they were analyzing how the disease might have gotten onto campus, as the institute has not experienced anything like it since its inception. The institute went on to say that dogs as carriers could be one of the reasons. However, the state ruled out the theory, saying dogs are not known carriers of anthrax organisms and play no role in their transmission.

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