Momba district medical officer Dr Anno Maseta confirmed that 78 Nzoka ward residents had been infected with anthrax, four of whom succumbed to the disease.
Anthrax is a rare but deadly bacterial disease, and this particular outbreak is believed to have spread to humans from the carcass of a cow.
“So far, four people have succumbed to the disease and the remaining 74 are undergoing treatment,” he said, adding: “As I speak, we are in a meeting discussing the public health measures to take to arrest the outbreak of the disease. The idea is to prevent the spread of the disease, as the victims are suspected to have eaten meat from a cow which had itself died of anthrax.”
Momba district commissioner Juma Irando, speaking in his capacity as safety and security committee chairman in the district, said they were working on measures to take to address the outbreak of anthrax, a highly infectious and fatal disease commonly hitting mammals, especially cattle and sheep. When transmitted to humans it causes skin ulcers or a form of pneumonia.
At Nzoka village dispensary, some patients confessed to having eaten meat from a cow believed to have died of anthrax.
One of the patients, Silvester Simwinga, said: “I started feeling bad just hours after I had eaten the meat. Doctors have confirmed that I have contracted anthrax.”
He said that since he was admitted at the facility on Wednesday, the number of patients have been increasing daily – rising to 74 by yesterday.
The villagers appealed to the government to impose a temporary ban on cattle auctions in the district to avoid spreading the disease to other wards.
In September 2017, an outbreak of the disease killed at least 42 hippos in south-central Tanzania’s world-acclaimed Ruaha National Park.
The park’s chief warden, Christopher Timbuka, said then that investigations had showed the animals had indeed succumbed to anthrax.
He said a survey carried out between August and early September that year showed that cases of the fatalities were found in three key areas in the park that are popular for hosting hippos.