Published Date: 2013-01-05 08:41:43
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Anthrax - Zimbabwe: (MA), human, livestock
Archive Number: 20130105.1482500
ANTHRAX - ZIMBABWE: (MANICALAND), HUMAN, LIVESTOCK
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Thu 3 Jan 2013
Source: Manica Post [edited]
Several villagers in Masvosva, Makoni District [Manicaland province], contracted anthrax after butchering infected cattle and some could be endangering their lives by depending on unscientific methods to cure the hemorrhagic infection.
Though no immediate reports of human deaths were recorded, sources at Rusape District Hospital confirmed more than 20 hospitalised cases of anthrax following consumption of infected carcasses.
The District Medical Officer Dr Mohammed Khaled confirmed the developments, but said there were no deaths. "Yes, such cases were recorded from our clinics; the victims were treated and discharged. There were no deaths," said Dr Khaled.
Dr Khaled dissuaded members of the public from consuming meat from animals whose cause of death is unknown. Humans usually get anthrax through direct contact with infected livestock, often when spores get into a cut on the skin or eating infected carcasses. Without treatment, anthrax can be fatal, but early treatment with antibiotics is very effective. Anthrax has killed hundreds of animals mostly in the communal part of districts and the situation that was compounded by ignorance by farmers who concealed their animal deaths from veterinary authorities fearing arrest.
The latest outbreak was first noticed when infected villagers sought medication at Masvosva Clinic and it resultantly emerged that cattle in the area started dying as early as October , but farmers were not reporting the sporadic deaths for timely vaccine intervention to the veterinary authorities. Veterinary authorities only moved in after being advised of anthrax outbreak in patients from health authorities in the district. The Makoni district veterinary officer Dr Kupa Hwana confirmed the outbreak, but bemoaned lack of cooperation from farmers.
"As a department we rarely see infected animals because they die so quickly. We rely on information from farmers. The problem we face is that the cattle die in a matter of hours with no symptoms and if the famers conceal such information, we get stuck. We are having a situation where farmers eat infected meat, and when we ask, they deny that their cattle are dying. It was only when they eventually fell sick and approached the nearby health centres that it was discovered that it was anthrax," he said.
Dr Hwana dissuaded farmers from slaughtering sick animals, adding that dead ones must be properly buried to avoid the spread of the disease. Dr Hwana said the movement of cattle from these affected areas has been suspended with immediate effect, and those caught moving animals will be penalised because the spread of the disease is partially blamed on illegal animal movements.
"We have moved in to Masvosva and the neighbouring areas and at the same time conscientising people not eat meat from dead animals. We are also educating farmers on the need to cooperate with our offices to ensure that when similar cases happen we are swiftly advised so that we can save the situation. Farmers must not conceal any information regarding animal health from our officials. We have also banned the movement of animals from that area as a precautionary measure.
"The carcasses of suspected anthrax cases should never be opened and the meat should never be consumed. Should a case of anthrax occur on your farm, you may help to stop the spread of infection by burning or burying dead animals, and disinfecting the place using the most effective disinfectants like quicklime, formalin, or caustic soda," said Dr Hwana.
Anthrax periodically breaks out in Zimbabwe, where it ends up spreading from cattle to people as people consume meat from infected animals. Natural anthrax is endemic in Zimbabwe where its bacillus spores can live for decades in dry soil and are ingested by animals ruminating for remnants of vegetation in the driest months of September and October. Anthrax outbreaks happen occasionally in livestock herds and wild animals in Zimbabwe, usually in the Gonarezhou area.
The veterinary department is suffering from perennial shortage of vaccines and farmers are being encouraged to purchase their own vaccines.
[This report points up a number of major deficiencies in the Zimbabwe animal control and surveillance programme for anthrax. And inter alia it is an African version of the similar programmes in Soviet Russia. To get possible anthrax cases reported promptly there has to be a positive attitude by the government services, even better with subsidised responses and benefits.
If there is any hint of criminal action rural folk go silent and when human cases are investigated, tell all sorts of tales to cover up what really happened. Thus the Russian claims of human cutaneous cases from farm workers hoeing cabbages.
And this Zimbabwean lengthy account is telling that vaccination, a vital preventative action with this livestock disease, is limited to one short sentence at the very end. In poverty stricken rural areas you cannot, repeat cannot, depend on the owners to vaccinate their animals. Sterne vaccine is possibly the cheapest vaccine in the world and it is effective. The absence of any vaccine unfortunately reflects the bankrupt government services in Zimbabwe. 40-50 years ago anthrax was of trivial concern as there was an effective government veterinary service and the commercial farms made sure their high producing stock were covered.
To find a description of Makoni District in Manicaland in northeast Zimbabwe, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makoni_District. - Mod.MHJ
Maps of Zimbabwe can be seen at http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/zimbabwe.pdf and http://healthmap.org/r/4IuW. - Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]