An anthrax case and death in an African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) has been reported in Kazima Forest, Chobe National Park, Chobe, Botswana, according to a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) report Friday. Dr. Letlhogile Modisa, Director, Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Gaborone, Botswana notified the OIE.

African elephant Image/Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
African elephant Image/Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The animal was found dead by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks officers during routine patrols where they noticed unclotted blood oozing from the mouth. Samples were collected and sent to Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory where anthrax was detected via inoculation test Thursday.

The elephant’s carcass was burnt to ashes, according to the report. Burning infected carcasses is normally the optimum decision in livestock and game outbreaks.

The elephant was one of some 72,000 wild elephants found in the protected park in northern Botswana. the source of the anthrax case is still unknown.

Anthrax is a pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels and deers. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

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.

It infects humans primarily through occupational or incidental exposure with infected animals of theirskins.

Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus 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.

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.

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.

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.