Rural poor in Zimbabwe consume meat from anthrax-infected carcasses

A top health official in Zimbabwe said this week that anthrax outbreaks in the country's Matabeleland, Mashonaland East, Midlands and Manicaland provinces are the result of people consuming meat from animals with anthrax.

Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Portia Manangazira said that Zimbabweans in the rural communities dry the meat from deceased cattle affected with the disease and eat the meat in the form of biltong, the Zimbabwean reports.

"The biggest problem we are facing is that the communities are reluctant to burn the carcasses," Manangazira said, according to the Zimbabwean. "Instead, they eat the meat they dry when the cattle die."

Manangazira said that there were 32 cases of anthrax since the beginning of the year with no deaths. There were 162 cases with one death in 2012. She said that the best methods for prevention of anthrax included vaccinating all livestock and thoroughly cooking meat through boiling.

"Prevention is better than cure and we need to vaccinate our animals all the time so that we prevent anthrax from spreading into human and people should avoid animals that die on their own," Manangazira said, according to the Zimbabwean.

Manangazira said that anthrax is endemic in Zimbabwe and that most outbreaks occur in the dry months of September and October. Human cutaneous anthrax infections occur when anthrax spores enter a cut or scrape on the skin when handling an infected animal carcass, the Zimbabwean reports.