Anthrax outbreak in Sesfontein area

16 November 2018 | Health

Thirteen people have been infected with anthrax after consuming infected meat in the Sesfontein area.

The anthrax outbreak in the Kunene and Kavango-East regions has killed 98 head of livestock in the Sesfontein area and 23 buffalo in the Bwabwata National Park.

The agriculture, water and forestry ministry announced on 7 November that the disease had been detected in the Sesfontein area of the Kunene Region and the Bwabwata National Park in the Kavango East Region at the beginning of the month.

A total of 92 sheep and goats, three cattle and three donkeys died from anthrax in the Sesfontein area.

In the Bwabwata National Park, 23 buffalo have died but so far no suspected cases of human or livestock infection have been reported there.

The health ministry has provided post-exposure prophylaxis to 44 people exposed to anthrax-infected meat at Omiriu and Okamba yOzonogombo in the Sesfontein area.

Spores of the bacterium that causes anthrax are commonly found in soil and the disease can affect domestic and wild animals which ingest spores from contaminated soil, plants or water. People can catch the disease through contact with anthrax-infected animals or animal products. Anthrax is not generally transmissible from person to person. Anthrax in humans can take three forms and symptoms usually develop within seven days after exposure to the bacteria. The health and agricultural ministries are cooperating to address the outbreak and a number of actions have been taken, including a restriction on animal movements from, within and into the affected areas of Sesfontein and the Bwabwata National Park. Veterinary staff have been deployed to establish the extent of the outbreaks and susceptible cattle, sheep and goats in and around the affected areas have been vaccinated.

Joint awareness campaigns are under way and the Sesfontein health centre and Opuwo district hospital are submitting daily reports on any suspected human cases in the area.

Regional and district health emergency committees have been activated and a technical team, including epidemiologists from the Namibian field epidemiology and laboratory training programme, has been dispatched. The ministries are urging communities in the affected areas not to touch any animal that dies of natural causes, unless they wear protective clothing. All animal deaths should be immediately reported to the nearest state veterinarian. Farmers elsewhere are advised to vaccinate their livestock against anthrax annually.

The agriculture, health and safety and security ministries, together with regional, local and traditional authorities and local farmers, are working together to safely dispose of anthrax-infected carcasses and decontaminate the places where carcasses are discovered. Signs and symptoms of cutaneous anthrax include a raised, itchy bump resembling an insect bite that develops into a painless sore with a black centre, swelling in the sore and nearby lymph glands. Gastrointestinal anthrax signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, fever, severe, bloody diarrhoea in the later stage, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and a swollen neck. Pulmonary anthrax develops when a person breathes in anthrax spores. It's the deadliest way to contract the disease, and even with treatment, is often fatal. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, mild fever, fatigue and muscle aches, mild chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, coughing up blood and painful swallowing. As the disease progresses, patients may develop a high fever, shock and meningitis.


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