Death from hippo anthrax: Villagers feast on infected meat, 1 dies,11 under treatment

 Dr Nyasha Masuka

Dr Nyasha Masuka

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.

binga on zim map

“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.

dead hippo

“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.

—@winnie_masara.

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  • Cetshwayo

    Give the meat to the State House for consumption

  • lindani

    The bible says do not eat an animal that has died on its own

  • makhosi

    Whinsley Masara, you reported Wednesday that Anthrax was not suspected on the deaths of the hippos. That was irresponsible journalism, now people are dying becoz of your baseless assurance. Shame on you.

  • qembu

    Send in more personnel to cover the area, and also educate the villagers, awu baphela abantu sakusoma

  • khonzani

    health people should respond as though its an ebola outbreak, and also check in other cities like Bulawayo. Parks people should slaughter game for the villagers from time to time so that they do not feast on animals they find dead. This matter should be taken serious and even Zambian authorities should be alert as the meat could have found its way there

  • Only me

    Iyadliwa imvubu? Bengingazi. Kuyingozi ukudla ingcuba

  • msindazi

    we once ate meat from cattle with suspected anthrax in 1979, the people slaughtered them as they began to be weak and the meat was cooked over a long period. l was still a child by then. Some people developed abdominal pain and diarrhea. lam not sure of the fatalities . This was before independence

  • chidzidzi

    some strange facts about hippopotammi is that their blood is pink and when angry can have blood like sweat which later turns colourless and that they are always angry and dangerous

  • simomo

    There is now need to deploy a helicopter to assist the victims this is now a disaster, it will assist in moving specimen from the laboratory in Harare and Binga in time. Which other animals are affected are the cattle and goats safe or they have to be slaughtered. Is this anthrax or bird flu , Dr. Parirenyatwa has to explain to the masses what is it

  • braai stand

    Any mitigation factors put in place like vaccinating the animals?

  • makhosi

    The Zambezi basin is at risk, even downstream: Mozambique. Questions has to be answered:
    1. Source of outbreak
    2. Extent of outbreak
    3. Funds to mitigate the environmental disaster.

    • Muturikwa we Gweru.

      I agree fully. Source and extent of outbreak are very important. As for funds, there is no choice except for them to be availed before it becomes like an army worm menace to humans.

  • Muturikwa we Gweru.

    Some people love meat to an extent of bewitching one another. If you see that some animal species are dying in numbers because of whatever is killing them, how can one believe to have super intestines? I saw the horrible sites on TV and I think we should just advise each other to tune our greed. I witnessed people dying in numbers during the 1979 anthrax outbreak which msindazi talked about.