From the beginning of the year through November 7, health officials in Zimbabwe reported 212 human anthrax cases. No deaths have been reported. The latest cases were reported in early November –Nine in Gokwe North District (2), Gokwe South District (4) in Midlands Province, Goromonzi District (1) in Mashonaland East Province, Hurungwe District (1) and Makonde District (1) in Mashonaland West Province.
The anthrax outbreak started in September 2019 affecting mainly Buhera and Gokwe North and South districts.
Since the start of the outbreak, 979 cases, including three deaths have been reported.
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.
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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.
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