Anthrax may spread after cases in Zambia, Uganda

2023-12-10 07:52:48
Anthrax may spread after cases in Zambia, Uganda

The World Health Organization fears a major outbreak of anthrax in Zambia may spread to other countries after 684 people were infected, and four died. Humans and animals have been reported falling ill and dying in provinces across the African nation.

The first 26 people developed sores on their face, arms, and fingers after consuming wild animal meat in June. As of 20 November 2023, there have been 684 suspected human cases, including four deaths in nine of Zambia’s 10 provinces.

The WHO called the outbreak 'unprecedented'. The latest large-scale outbreak reported in Zambia occurred in 2011 with a total of 511 suspected cases.

Anthrax is a disease that can pass from animals to humans, caused by a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis that typically affects cows, sheep, and goats. The bacteria produce extremely potent toxins which are responsible for the symptoms, causing a high lethality rate.

Humans can develop the disease from infected animals or through contaminated animal products. Hospitalization is required for all human cases identified. Vaccines are available for livestock and humans in limited supply.

Uganda bans beef products to curb anthrax outbreak

Uganda has imposed a ban on the sale of beef products as authorities struggle to contain a severe anthrax outbreak originating in the Kyotera district of the central region.

Reports indicate that at least 17 people have died, with over 20 others bedridden in various local villages.

The Kyotera district veterinary officer, John Mary Lutaaya, has announced restrictions on the movement of cattle in the Kabira zone until the outbreak is under control, affecting local traders.

The outbreak, confirmed by health authorities on November 26, has resulted in the death of more than 40 cows within the past two months. Anthrax, a rare but highly infectious disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, naturally occurs in soil and typically affects both wild and domestic animals.

The public is at risk of infection through contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products, leading to symptoms such as blisters, fevers, swollen limbs, and difficulty in breathing.

Of concern is the revelation that some affected individuals are seeking solace in shrines rather than healthcare facilities, a trend that health officials fear will impede efforts to contain the outbreak.

The situation remains critical as authorities intensify measures to curb the spread of the disease, including the prohibition of beef sales and the implementation of stringent controls on cattle movement in affected areas.

(Source: Agencies)

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