Four people from the town of Nyeri have been hospitalized with suspected anthrax after consuming tainted meat, according to a Daily Nation report.

Bacillus anthracis/CDC
Bacillus anthracis/CDC

The four, two brothers and two neighbors, are admitted to an isolation ward at Mt Kenya Hospital Nyeri.

Nyeri Central sub-county commissioner John Marete said public health officers have been mobilized and dispatched to the village to assess the situation and investigate if there could be other possible cases.

“We want to find out how they contaminated the disease and if there could be other possible victims who are yet to present themselves in hospital. The medics are controlling the homestead,” he noted.

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

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.