Amirul Islam, 40, a farmer from Majhpara village of Meherpur's Gangni upazila, sacrificed a cow along with four others on Eid-ul-Adha this year. Three days after Eid, he found lesions in both hands. He visited the Upazila Health Complex where doctors told him that he had contracted anthrax. Currently, he is taking treatment for the disease.
Amirul is not alone, eight other people at the village have so far been diagnosed with the disease.
Rupali Begum, 40, of Malsadaha village of the same upazila, has been diagnosed with anthrax this month. On September 9, her husband had bought beef. Three days later, lesions appeared on the little finger of her left hand, which later proved to be anthrax.
So far, almost 500 people have been infected with the disease in Gangni.
"Many patients infected with anthrax have recently visited the hospital. Most of them have lesions on their skin. We are working with the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research to tackle the situation," said Dr Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman, health and family welfare officer of Gangni.
The outbreak of anthrax in several districts has been causing panic among the people.
According to researchers, anthrax has been seen mostly in areas with large-scale livestock farming.
After the recent outbreak in Gangni, the Department of Livestock Services conducted surveillance in the upazila on September 9.
"In Gangni, people rear more goats than cows. But the practice of vaccinating goats is rare. Primarily, we are suspecting that it is from the goats that anthrax has been spreading here. We can confirm the fact after further tests," said Dr Golam Azam Chowdhury, a member of the surveillance team.
"Vaccination of livestock must be increased to prevent anthrax. Several years ago, many anthrax cases were detected in Sirajganj, but it was contained through a massive vaccination programme," said Dr Azam.
"Most of the anthrax patients are found in Meherpur, Sirajganj and Rajbari," he added.
Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by a bacterium known as Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. People can contract anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products.
Humans can generally be infected with two forms of anthrax. One, in the digestive system, and the other, in the outer part of the body.
When infected in the digestive system the symptoms generally are fever and pain in muscles and throat. When infected in the outer part of the body, lesions or boils on the skin appear. This second form of anthrax is mostly seen in Bangladesh.
"Anthrax can be seen in certain areas of the country. At first, it affected animals like cow, goat or buffalo. Humans get the bacteria from these animals. Especially, someone involved in cutting an animal infected with anthrax is more prone to contracting the disease," said Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research.
The germs of anthrax can be latent for a long time. It can be activated after a long period of drought or a sudden rise in temperature. Animals contract the germs when grazing in certain areas.
Researchers said the present outbreak is caused by the abrupt changes in the weather in recent years.