In a follow-up to a report last week concerning an anthrax outbreak in Chama district, in the northeast region of Zambia, media accounts show the outbreak has nearly tripled in cases.

Image/  Zoophilia at the wikipedia project.
Image/ Zoophilia at the wikipedia project.

The case tally has reached 58 and Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said the affected people are currently undergoing treatment and added that no deaths have been recorded.

Chama District Commissioner, Josphat Lombe, in an interview with local media, said that 18 hippos from Luangwa River are reported to have died from anthrax, which was eventually transmitted to humans after eating its meat. It is believed that some 235 people consumed the tainted hippo meat.

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.

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.