It appears an anthrax-tainted cow served at a feast resulted in some 100 people being treated for the bacterial infection at the Longisa County Referral Hospital in Bomet, according to a Kenyan news source. As of this report, anthrax has not been confirmed in the cow or the patients.


Seven people were admitted to the hospital in serious condition, the report notes.

All the patients are said to have fell ill after their neighbour slaughtered a cow that had suddenly died and invited them for a feast.

“The report we have is that a neighbor had called for a feast after their cow died without any symptoms of illness on Tuesday evening and…some of those who ate developed abdominal pains,” Dr Sowek stated.

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Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep,goats, horses, camels and deer. Anthrax is a very serious disease of livestock because it can potentially cause the rapid lossof a large number of animals in a very short time. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.

It infects humans primarily through occupational or incidental exposure with infected animals of their skins.

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 eventuallykill the animal. Anthrax is caused by the bacteriumBacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for years because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc.  This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.

LISTEN: Anthrax in animals: An interview with Dr. Buddy Faries

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals. The vegetative form is rarely implicated in transmission.  Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burying of carcasses from livestock suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.

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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There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneousgastrointestinal and inhalation.