By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
Health officials in Zimbabwe are reporting some 177 cattle have died from anthrax while 87 people were treated for the disease in various clinics and hospitals in areas across the country after eating meat from cattle that died from the infection during this season.
Division of Veterinary Field Services, Acting Director, Dr. Wilmot Chikurunhe has told The Herald that anthrax outbreaks have been recorded in Gokwe, Nkayi, Gutu, Bikita, Marondera, Mazowe, Chegutu, Makonde and Sanyati. He said the disease is being detected in traditional outbreak areas and not affecting the whole district
Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Ruminants such as bison, cattle, sheep and goats are highly susceptible, and horses can also be infected.
Anthrax is a very serious disease of livestock because it can potentially cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a very short time. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.
When conditions become favorable, the spores germinate into colonies of bacteria. An example would be a grazing cow ingests spores that in the cow, germinate, grow spread and eventually kill the animal. Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for decades because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc. This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.
There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.
There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation.
Anthrax can be prevented by vaccination. “Cattle owners in anthrax areas need to ensure that their cattle are vaccinated against the disease once a year before the rainy season starts. The Department of Veterinary Services comes in to prevent massive outbreaks, but the primary responsibility for disease prevention lies with the owner,” Chikurunhe said.
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