Some 22 people were sickened and hospitalized for anthrax after consuming tainted beef in the southeastern province of Masvingo, Zimbabwe, according to local media Thursday.

Bacillus anthracis/CDC
Bacillus anthracis/CDC

The incident occurred in the ward of Mukore where villagers shared the carcass of an animal that died from the bacterial infection, sending them to the hospital for treatment. All 22 people were treated and released, according to the report.

Veterinary officials are to begin a vaccination campaign for the animals in the area.

Health officials urged villagers not to consume such animals and to instead burn the carcasses.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax 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, anthraxcommonly 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. anthracisspores 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.