The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone has declared an outbreak of human anthrax in the country after identifying 3 lab confirmed cutaneous anthrax cases in Karene district.
This is subsequent to an investigation of 7 suspected anthrax cases, all residing in Buya chiefdom, of whom 4 blood samples and swabs were collected and sent to the laboratory for confirmation.
The investigation was conducted as follow up to reports of sickness and death of animals in the adjacent Port Loko district between March and April, with reported consumption of meat in surrounding communities.
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.
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