The Sunday News
Fairness Moyana in Hwange
A SUSPECTED outbreak of anthrax has been reported in the Zambezi Valley following the death of eight elephants, two buffaloes and other animals last week.
The latest outbreak comes barely a year after 20 hippos were found dead in the Zambezi River in Mlibizi, Binga District after being infected by anthrax. In an interview on the sidelines of a District Civil Protection Committee meeting in Hwange last week, Hwange District Veterinary Officer Dr Lovemore Dube said several animal carcasses such as elephant, buffalo, impala, hyena were found last week in Matetsi Unit 6 and 7 which lies along the Zambezi Valley.
“Control and prevention is difficult because it’s endemic. It’s in the soil and we should expect it during the drought season. But on the livestock side we don’t have cattle near those areas otherwise we would have vaccinated them. We have an anthrax vaccine but for wildlife it’s difficult to vaccinate them, all that we can do is have proper sanitary measures in the disposal of those carcasses. For example by deep burying or burning so that they are not eaten by predators who can spread it. We have received information that eight elephants, two buffaloes, jackal, impala, hyena have died,” he said.
He said the drought that the country is experiencing was also worsening the situation.
“We had outbreaks of anthrax one-and-a- half-years ago that resulted in several hippos being affected and died. This anthrax is endemic along the whole Zambezi Valley and because of this drought, the spores are now being exposed to the surface. For example, we had some heavy downpours which lasted two days after a prolonged drought which washed away the topsoil and exposed the lower part of the soils where the spores are. The wildlife will be drinking from those pools of water that will be infected with anthrax. We could have lost several wild animals,” said Dr Dube.
He said there were still finding more elephant and other wild animal carcasses in the heavily affected areas of Matetsi Unit 6 and 7 in Hwange.
Dr Dube warned members of the public against buying biltong from unknown sources.
“The danger of it spreading to humans is there especially if it is consumed, there are bound to be death even in humans taking into account that anthrax affects all warm blooded. We have been carrying out awareness campaigns against buying biltong from unknown sources as some unscrupulous people can harvest meat from some wild animals killed by anthrax.”
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said he was still getting details of the latest outbreak.
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can occur in four forms: skin, lungs, intestinal, and injection. Anthrax is spread by contact with the bacterium’s spores, which often appear in infectious animal products.
Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. The meeting was meant to give an update on the state of preparedness in response to emergency situations following the killing of a 24-year-old man while fishing at one of the disused mine dams in Hwange.