Anthrax kills hundreds of animals in Zimbabwe

Anthrax has caused the deaths of hundreds of animals in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, in the last two months, with the risk of infection growing as drought covers much of the province.

There have been no reports of human deaths as a result of the outbreak, though several hospitalizations occurred after people consumed infected carcasses. Kurai Pride Kapondo, the acting provincial veterinary officer for Manicaland, confirmed that animal cases of anthrax have been reported in the Chipinge, Mutasa, Mutare and Buhera district, the Manica Post reports.

"The division of veterinary field services would like to inform the general public that there have been cases of anthrax in Manicaland province," Kapondo said, according to the Manica Post. "The division of veterinary services must be notified of suspected (anthrax) cases."

Anthrax is endemic in Zimbabwe, where Bacillus anthracis spores can live in dry soil for decades. The spores can be ingested by animals during the driest months of September and October.

Kapondo said the disease presents as sudden death with animals oozing blood from the mouth, anus and nose, the Manica Post reports.

"Carcasses bloat and decompose very rapidly," Kapondo said, according to the Manica Post. "The carcasses of suspected anthrax cases should never be opened and the meat should never be consumed. Should a case of anthrax occur on your farm, you may help to stop the spread of infection by burning or burying dead animals, and disinfecting the place using the most effective disinfectants like quicklime, formalin or caustic soda."

Because the veterinary department is suffering from a shortage of vaccines, farmers have been encouraged to buy their own vaccines.