116 suspected anthrax cases in people

16 October 2019 | Agriculture

More than 1 800 animals have died due to suspected anthrax outbreaks, while 116 cases were reported in humans in the Kunene and the Zambezi regions.

A total of 104 suspected human infections have been reported in Otjitanga village in the Epupa constituency after the community ate or had close contact with carcasses of goats and cattle with suspected anthrax.

Three people have been admitted to hospital, but no deaths have been reported to date.

In an unrelated incident at the Katima Mulilo district hospital in Zambezi, 11 suspected anthrax cases in humans were reported. They apparently consumed meat from dead hippos that died of unknown causes.

One person was admitted for treatment, but has since been discharged from the hospital. No deaths have been reported.

Suspected outbreaks of anthrax have been reported in livestock at Otjitanga village in the Epupa constituency of the Kunene Region and in hippos at Lake Liambezi in the Muyako village in the Zambezi Region.

According to a joint statement issued by the agriculture and health ministries, 68 small stock, including sheep and goats, have died thus far, suspected to have been caused by anthrax. These cases were detected at Otjijanga village since 25 September.

In the Zambezi Region deaths of hippos at Liambezi were detected on 29 August and thus far 39 hippos out of the estimated population of 110 have died.

No cases of suspected anthrax have been reported in livestock residing near the lake.

The agriculture ministry has therefore restricted animal movements from, within and into the affected areas of Otjitanga and Myako villages.

Disease investigations are being carried out within a radius of 30km from affected areas to determine the full extent of the outbreaks.

Vaccinations of susceptible cattle, sheep and goats in and around the affected areas are also being carried out. According to the statement anthrax is a serious infectious disease and can cause general weakness, difficult breathing, staggering, trembling and abortion in animals. It can cause sudden death without prior signs of sickness. In humans the incubation period is usually one to seven days in the gastrointestinal tract, three weeks for cutaneous anthrax and 42 days for pulmonary anthrax. It is estimated that 2 000 to 20 000 human anthrax cases occur annually worldwide.

People should avoid eating meat from or having direct contact with infected animals or carcasses and use proper personal equipment when working infected animals or carcases.

Farmers elsewhere are urged to vaccinate their animals annually.

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ELLANIE SMIT