Anthrax terror!

  • Deadly germ infects 36 people

  • Tainted meat could be in Byo

  • Umzingwane cattle lockdown

A cow infected with anthrax bleeds from the nose in this file photo

A cow infected with anthrax bleeds from the nose in this file photo

Marvelous Moyo Chronicle Correspondent
AN anthrax outbreak has been reported in Umzingwane District in Matabeleland South Province with 36 people getting infected and at least 42 head of cattle dying, amid fears that contaminated meat could have been sold to butcheries in Bulawayo.

The disease, which can be fatal if not treated, can be transmitted through eating the meat of infected animals.

Matabeleland South provincial principal veterinary officer Dr Enat Mdlongwa said the disease was detected last week at Mzola and Mahanka dip tanks. The movement of cattle in and out of Umzingwane has been suspended with immediate effect to avoid the spread of the highly infectious disease.

Illegal movement of cattle will result in the farmers being penalised.

Villagers told The Chronicle they were notified of the ban on Tuesday.

They said they always sold cattle to private buyers from Bulawayo, adding that infected meat could have inadvertently found its way to the city.

Bulawayo City Council’s public relations department had, by the time of going to print yesterday, not responded to e-mailed questions regarding the issue.

Dr Mdlongwa said: “We’ve received reports of 25 cattle that have died of anthrax in Umzingwane district and we’ve since put the area under quarantine. No cattle movement is allowed in and out of the area.”

“We’ve alerted our head office in Harare about the situation and we’re expecting to get the vaccines soon. We’ve however advised farmers who can afford to buy vaccines to do so and dose their animals.”

Infected animals die within a few days if they are not treated.

Matabeleland South provincial medical director Dr Brian Abel Maponga said no human deaths have been recorded.

“As of end of day on December 17, 2015, we had received and treated 36 people for human anthrax. These people were attended to at Esibomvu Clinic mainly and only a few seen at Mawabeni Clinic in Umzingwane district.

“The majority of the people were from Gongo village while other persons attended to were from Thusi, Esibomvu 2, Mzingwane and Msizini villages under Chief Gwebu.

“The majority of the people have been stable and were treated and discharged. Three patients were admitted but all have showed significant improvement with treatment,” he said.

Dr Maponga said 95 percent of the affected persons presented cutaneous (skin) anthrax which is curable and there was no evidence of the disease transmission from human to human.

“The most common symptoms of anthrax are skin lesions that may appear on any part of the body, but mostly on hands and face. The lesions are characterised by a depressed black scar. Some present abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. In rare cases it presents with difficulty in breathing, especially when there is lung exposure,” he said.

Dr Maponga and Dr Mdlongwa advised people to report cases of cattle dying to animal health inspectors or health inspectors.

They warned against eating or skinning animals that collapse and die and advised people not to eat meat from unknown sources.

Such animals should be buried under the supervision of environmental health practitioners and or veterinary officers.

Matabeleland South Provincial administrator Midard Khumalo said the disease had been reported in Wards 3, 4 and 5 in Mawabeni.

“The affected villages are Gongo, Thusi, Sibomvu, Mzingwane, Msizini, Irrisvale, Chalimbe and Godlwayo,” said Khumalo.

He said teams are already on the ground battling to contain the disease in the villages.

“Nurse training on how to handle the disease is underway. So far we’ve things under control as mobilisation of fuel and medicines has started,” he said.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Chief Gwebu appealed to the government to provide the anthrax vaccines to avoid further loss of the livestock.

“We’re now in the farming season and cattle are mostly used as draught animals for ploughing. We appeal to the government to intervene so that we don’t lose more cattle,” he said.

Chief Gwebu commended the health staff for the good care they provided to infected persons.

He said people had been equipped with information on how to prevent the spread of the disease in the area and was working tirelessly with communities to contain the infectious disease.

Signs and symptoms, which depend on how you’re infected, can range from skin sores to vomiting to shock.

Early this year, Matabeleland South province was hit by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease which saw a number of cattle succumbing to it. Diseases and drought pose a serious challenge to livestock development in the province.

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