Vaccination programme underway to control anthrax

Zambian Western Province Minister, Nathaniel Mubukwanu, said that at least 17 people had been hospitalised in western Zambia after eating meat from cattle which had died of anthrax. The 17 patients are currently in a stable condition.

The clinical signs, and the anthrax form, in these patients has not been disclosed. However, one can assume that some cases are cutaneous (entering through the skin) and others gastro-intestinal (caused by eating contaminated meat), but this is still to be confirmed.

Mubukwanu said that 40 animals had died in Kalabo during last week. As many as 65 000 head of cattle are currently at risk in the five Western Province’s districts: Limulunga, Nalolo, Kalabo, Shangombo and Sioma. With this many animals exposed to anthrax, additional fatalities may be registered in the coming days, despite the vaccination campaign underway.

Controlling the outbreak

Quarantines, restrictions and vaccination campaigns are in the works to control the outbreak. Members of the public are advised not to eat or touch animals that die suddenly as this is the infection’s primary transmission mode. It is also advisable to burn clothes and footwear that have been worn in an anthrax contaminated area.

Anthrax has the potential to cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected. It infects humans through occupational or incidental exposure with infected
animals or their hides.

There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products or consuming undercooked meat of infected animals.

This report by Robert Herriman was taken from the International Society for Infectious Disease’s veterinary information website ProMED-EAFR:

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