AN anthrax outbreak has been reported in Umzingwane District in Matabeleland South Province with 36 people getting infected and at least 45 head of cattle dying, amid fears that contaminated meat could have been sold to butcheries in Bulawayo.
The disease, which can be fatal if not treated, can be transmitted through eating the meat of infected animals.
Matabeleland South provincial principal veterinary officer Dr Enat Mdlongwa said the disease was detected last week at Mzola and Mahanka dip tanks. The movement of cattle in and out of Umzingwane has been suspended with immediate effect to avoid the spread of the highly infectious disease. Illegal movements of cattle would result in the farmers being penalised.
Villagers told our Bulawayo Bureau that they were notified of the ban on Tuesday. They said they always sold cattle to private buyers from Bulawayo, adding infected meat could have inadvertently found its way to the city.
Bulawayo City Council’s public relations department had, by the time of going to print yesterday, not responded to e-mailed questions regarding the issue.
Dr Mdlongwa said: “We have received reports of 25 cattle that have died of anthrax in Umzingwane district and we have since put the area under quarantine. No cattle movement is allowed in and out of the area.”
“We have alerted our head office in Harare about the situation and we are expecting to get the vaccines soon. We have, however, advised farmers who can afford to buy vaccines to do so and doze their animals.”
Infected animals die within a few days if they are not treated.
However, by late yesterday 45 cases of animals death had been reported.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director Dr Brian Abel Maponga said no human deaths have been recorded.
“As of end of day on December 17, 2015 we had received and treated 36 people for human anthrax. These people were attended to at Esibomvu Clinic mainly and only a few seen at Mawabeni Clinic in Umzingwane district.
“The majority of the people were from Gongo village while other persons attended to were from Thusi, Esibomvu 2, Mzingwane and Msizini villages under Chief Gwebu. Most of the people have been stable and were treated and discharged. Three patients were admitted but all have showed significant improvement with treatment,” he said.
Dr Maponga said 95percent of the affected persons presented with cutaneous (skin) anthrax which is curable and there was no evidence of the disease transmission from human to human.
“The most common symptoms of anthrax are skin lesions that may appear on any part of the body, but mostly on hands and face. The lesions are characterised by a depressed black scar,” he said.