Anthrax outbreak infects 22 in Namibia

Twenty-two Namibians are confirmed to have contracted anthrax as part of an outbreak that began in mid-January.

The illness was first reported on January 17 in the Oniipa Constituency in the Oshikoto Region of the country. The first known cases were found in two villagers who are believed to have eaten anthrax-infected beef. The two cases became the only reported fatalities, but Dr. Norbert Forster, the deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, said that many others had contact with infected animals, according to

Forster said that the additional cases include several people with skin rashes and blisters who have been placed on a regimen of antibiotics. He said that all 22 of the additional cases are recovering.

The ministry recently began a major campaign to create awareness of the disease and its consequences, as well as to teach area residents how to spot symptoms of infection. Residents were warned to report dying animals to the department of veterinary services and not to slaughter and eat them. At least 10 cattle were believed to be infected with the illness, which can lay dormant for years in spore-form.

Andrew Ndishishi, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, said that anthrax is endemic in the nearby Etosha National Park and occasionally occurs in domestic animals in the bordering regions.

"All persons who might have visited the Oshikoto Region during December - January and experience such symptoms, should report to the nearest health facility," Ndishishi said, reports.