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Melting ice releases live anthrax trapped in deer since WWII

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 10:55 AM - As heat records continue to soar and Arctic sea ice sees new record-lows, Earth's changing climate reveals a lot about what's yet to come.

But it also reveals a lot about the past. As the world's ice melts, fragments of history that have been buried beneath permafrost anywhere from decades to millennia are now coming to the surface.

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In this case, a heatwave in northern Siberia has brought something living to the surface, sparking an outburst that hasn't taken place in the region since 1941.

An outbreak of anthrax -- a bacterial infection -- has left a 12-year-old boy dead, infecting 21 others, ABC News reports.

Officials have linked the resurfacing to the region's melting Arctic permafrost, which recently thawed the carcasses of anthrax-infected deer from roughly 75 years ago, Bloomberg reports.

Though the deer didn't survive, the bacteria remained dormant until warmer temperatures reactivated it. This infectious disease can survive in hibernation for decades, Bloomberg notes.

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The number of suspected cases rose to 90, regional officials told ABC. Forty-five of those under evaluation are children.

According to the Russian agricultural watchdog agency, the anthrax spores were dormant in the permafrost for more than a century.

Humans are susceptible to infection if they breathe in the spores, eat contaminated food, or get infected through open cuts in the skin while handling diseased animals, ABC reports.

Roughly 16,500 locals in the region continue to live a traditional, nomadic lifestyle, ABC notes. This includes hunting and gathering food and herding reindeer.

Natalya Khlopunova, the governor's spokeswoman, told ABC that among those infected was a family that "ate reindeer meat raw and drank the blood," which Khlopunova referred to as a nomadic custom.

Watch Below: Deer frolicking in the snow with turkeys

SOURCE: ABC News | Bloomberg

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