Anthrax outbreak sickens more than 20 in Zimbabwe

At least 20 villagers in Zimbabwe were recently hospitalized after contracting the gastrointestinal form of anthrax.

The villagers, from the Makoni District in northeastern Zimbabwe, are believed to have acquired the illness after butchering infected cattle. Their efforts to cure the infection may have served to make the situation considerably worse, according to

There are no immediate reports of fatalities, but the Rusape District Hospital confirmed 20 anthrax-related hospitalizations. District Medical Officer Dr. Mohammed Khaled also confirmed the existence of the outbreak. He has been attempting to persuade area residents not to eat the meat from animals whose causes of death are unknown.

"Yes, such cases were recorded from our clinics; the victims were treated and discharged," Khaled said, reports. "There were no deaths."

Anthrax is believed to have killed hundreds of animals in the region. The situation has been made more complicated because many local farmers, fearing arrest by veterinary authorities, are thought to have concealed their animal deaths.

Makoni District Veterinary Officer Dr. Kupa Hwana said that veterinary authorities were only notified about the outbreak when health authorities informed them of the existence of a number of human cases.

"As a department we rarely see infected animals because they die so quickly," Dr. Hwana said, reports. "We rely on information from farmers. The problem we face is that the cattle die in a matter of hours with no symptoms and if the famers conceal such information, we get stuck. We are having a situation where farmers eat infected meat, and when we ask, they deny that their cattle are dying.

"It was only when they eventually fell sick and approached the nearby health centers that it was discovered that it was anthrax."