In a follow-up report on the Zimbabwe anthrax outbreak, health officials now say the number of villagers in Umzingwane district has risen to 56, including a number of small children as of Tuesday, according to a Chronicle report.

Bacillus anthracis/CDC
Bacillus anthracis/CDC

This has prompted the government to launch an intensive campaign to educate the public in Matabeleland on the outbreak of anthrax. “We have launched a joint awareness campaign with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to alert the public to refrain from eating meat from un-inspected animals that die from natural causes. All anthrax carcasses should not be opened,” Director of Veterinary Services Dr Josphat Nyika said.

“During this time of the year, we experience more anthrax outbreaks because of the rains that wash away the top soil and expose spores. We will be expecting more of these outbreaks due to the current rains. We are mobilizing resources to vaccinate the cattle at risk,” said Dr Nyika.

The outbreak has also caused an appeal from villagers for vaccines for their livestock, their livelihood.

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. 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.