Control of anthrax is essential forprevention of its spread to humans

27Feb 2019
The Guardian
Control of anthrax is essential forprevention of its spread to humans

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis.  It can occur in four forms: skin, lungs, intestinal, and injection.  Symptoms begin between one day and two months after the infection is contracted.

 The skin form presents with a small blister with surrounding swelling that often turns into a painless ulcer with a black center.  The inhalation form presents with fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath.  The intestinal form presents with diarrhea which may contain blood, abdominal pains, and nausea and vomiting.

Anthrax is spread by contact with the bacterium's spores, which often appear in infectious animal products.  Contact is by breathing, eating, or through an area of broken skin.  It does not typically spread directly between people.  Risk factors include people who work with animals or animal products, travelers, postal workers, and military personnel.  Anthrax vaccination is recommended for people who are at high risk of infection. Immunizing animals against anthrax is recommended in areas where previous infections have occurred. 

Although a rare disease, human anthrax, when it does occur, is most common in Africa and central and southern Asia.  It also occurs more regularly in Southern Europe than elsewhere on the continent, and is uncommon in Northern Europe and North America.  Globally, at least 2,000 cases occur a year with about two cases a year in the United States. In the same vein,Tanzanians have been cautioned to be extra careful when purchasing and consuming meat following recent reports on the outbreak of anthrax in some parts of the country.

National Ranching Company Limited (NARCO) acting general manager, Prof Philemon Wambura warned meat consumers to get the product from authorized market places.

The local media was in the past weeks narrating an outbreak of the disease that killed five people and 21 cattle in Rombo District, Kilimanjaro region. Last month, anthrax killed four people in Momba district, Songwe Region.Prof Wambura said that anthrax is among the most dangerous diseases to animals and humans, urging the public to ensure they buy meat at registered and formal areas.

People who rush to cut up meat from a cow dying on its own were courting trouble as a cow dies having a healthy look, so people around the area think its meat is usable while they haven’t asked for veterinary officials to take tests if the meat is fit for consumption.

He emphasized on farmers and ranch owners across the country to ensure all their animals are vaccinated on time to prevent such outbreaks.

 Our country’s laws restrict slaughtering activities at informal places as well as cattle rearing in urban areas. Animals should be kept at approved areas.

 People should be cautious and seek advice from experts in case an animal dies to avoid spread of the disease. In September 2017, an outbreak of the disease killed at least 42 hippos in Ruaha National Park and  that investigations had showed the animals had indeed succumbed to anthrax.

A survey carried out between August and early September that year showed that the fatalities were found in three areas in the park that  have substantial hippo colonies.