More than 40 hippopotami in Ruaha National Park have succumbed to the lethal bacterial disease, anthrax, according to a local media report.


A spokesman for the south-central sanctuary said this is the largest number of hippos to have been killed in the park by the disease caused by the bacterium, Bacillus anthracis.

Christopher Timbuka, Ruaha Chief Park Warden said an acute water shortage in Great Ruaha River was one of the contributing factors for the outbreak.

The Tanzanian government has established a special task force aimed at finding a lasting solution to the ecology of Great Ruaha River, which is currently overwhelmed with anthropogenic factors.

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 animals 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.

LISTEN: Anthrax: An interview with Dr Buddy Faries

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.