In a follow-up to previous reports on an anthrax outbreak in Western Province, Zambia, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation report today that the human case total has risen to 67 since the outbreak began in Nov. 2016.

Bacillus anthracis/CDC
Bacillus anthracis/CDC

In addition, it is reported that two people have died from the lethal bacterial disease.

A mass vaccination campaign for animals is being carried out and health officials remind people not to consume or handle sick animals.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracisAnthrax is most common in wild and domestic herbivores (eg, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes) but can also be seen in humans exposed to tissue from infected animals, contaminated animal products or directly to B anthracis spores under certain conditions.

Depending on the route of infection, host factors, and potentially strain-specific factors,anthrax can have several different clinical presentations. In herbivores, anthrax commonly presents as an acute septicemia with a high fatality rate, often accompanied by hemorrhagic lymphadenitis.

B. anthracis spores can remain infective in soil for many years. During this time, they are a potential source of infection for grazing livestock. Grazing animals may become infected when they ingest sufficient quantities of these spores from the soil.In addition to direct transmission, biting flies may mechanically transmit B. anthracis spores from one animal to another.

People can get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.