Zambian Fisheries and Livestock officials announced there is a anthrax outbreak in cattle currently affecting five districts in Western Province, according to a Times of Zambia report.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

Minister Michael Katambo said the affected districts include Limulunga, Nalolo, Kalabo, Shangombo and Sioma. How many cattle have been affected was not disclosed.

“Given the epidemic nature of the current outbreak that commenced in late November 2016, the Government will undertake mass vaccinations of all cattle in the affected districts to contain the outbreak and will closely monitor the situation,” he said. Mr Katambo explained that Anthrax was a killer disease of human and animals, hence the farming community was advised to make their animals available for vaccination.

The Public has also been advised not to eat or touch animals that die suddenly  as it was the main mode of transmission of the disease to humans.

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.