Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
ONE person has died while 11 others are being treated for suspected anthrax after consuming meat from hippos that died a fortnight ago in Binga’s Mlibizi area.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has since deployed a team to Binga to fight the outbreak.
Anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by bacteria that normally affects animals.
Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Nyasha Masuka said the death of a 19-year-old man at Siansundu Clinic on Wednesday is suspected to be related to an anthrax outbreak in the area.
“A man who showed signs and symptoms of anthrax admitted to have eaten hippo meat which he was given by a relative living in Saba ward. Anthrax infected hippos started dying as from March 27 and this man consumed the meat on April 12. He had ulcers on the mouth and face and complained of severe headaches. He visited the hospital a few days ago and died within seven days,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that our health team focused on Saba ward villagers only hence this man from a neighbouring village was least suspected to have anthrax because they were not aware of the outbreak.”
Dr Masuka said health officials were facing a challenge in fighting the outbreak as villagers were not opening up or being honest as to whether they consumed the meat from the hippos or not .
He said 1, 5 kilogrammes of hippo meat was found mixed with 45 kilogrammes of goat meat on sale in a butchery at Binga Centre and has since been destroyed to eliminate human contact with the infected meat.
“We had dispatched a team which went into Saba village and had to check for signs and symptoms on the villagers’ bodies after many denied to have eaten the meat.
“It is after receiving the report on the now deceased that we realised we had to re-check all people in the surrounding villages. Apparently, they are now opening up to have shared the meat with relatives in neighbouring villages,” said Dr Masuka.
He said awareness campaigns will be intensified to warn villagers of dangers associated with eating meat from animals that die under unclear circumstances.
“They are also being notified of the signs and symptoms of human anthrax so that the affected seek treatment as soon as possible,” Dr Masuku said.
He said there were 58 villagers, including children, whom health workers were following up on for possible infection.
“We have so far treated 11 people from Siansundu village for anthrax and our teams are closely monitoring 58 others who also ate meat from the dead hippos for any signs or symptoms of the disease. The samples were sent to the National Reference Laboratory in Harare for confirmation,” Dr Masuka said.