Anthrax infects 36 in Zimbabwe

Farmers in a dry district of southern Zimbabwe have been told to vaccinate their cattle after 36 people fell ill with anthrax, state media reported at the weekend.

There are no reports of human fatalities, although at least 25 cattle have already died, the official Chronicle newspaper reported. The affected district is Umzingwane, where incomes are generally low.

All movement of cattle from the district has been banned in an effort to contain the deadly disease. Humans can contract anthrax through eating infected meat, breathing in spores or through contact with infected animals.

Provincial veterinary officer Enat Mdlongwa told the Chronicle, “We’ve received reports of 25 cattle that have died of anthrax in Umzingwane district and we’ve since put the area under quarantine. No cattle movement is allowed in and out of the area.”

The Chronicle said that 95% of the Umzingwane cases were cutaneous anthrax, meaning the disease had likely been contracted when villagers touched infected cattle. The symptoms include skin lesions, mostly on the hands and face.

Most of the cases are from a single village although cases have been reported in a total of eight villages. The villagers have all received medical attention and local nurses are being trained to treat the disease, the newspaper said.

The local chief has appealed to the authorities to provide vaccines for the cattle, which are desperately needed to prepare farmland ahead of anticipated rains.

Chief Gwebu was quoted as saying, “We’re now in the farming season and cattle are mainly used as draught animals for ploughing. We appeal to the government to intervene so that we don’t lose more cattle.”

Anthrax outbreaks are reported from time to time in Zimbabwe. In January, ten people had to be treated for anthrax in hospital in Chipinge in south-eastern Zimbabwe. They had eaten infected meat. An anthrax outbreak in the Mana Pools National Park in 2012 killed at least 165 wild animals, including 88 hippos. – ©News24

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