Anthrax outbreak hits Zim

HARARE - At least 100 cattle have died and hundreds of people hospitalised in Zimbabwe following an outbreak of the cattle disease, anthrax.

Farmers say attempts to control the spread of the disease have been undermined by dwindling supplies of vaccines and the failure to prevent the movement of cattle.

Supplies of vaccines are reported to have run short, heightening fears of a more severe outbreak.

Since cases of anthrax began appearing in some parts of Mashonaland provinces, Manicaland and farming areas to the east of Harare a month ago, at least 100 cattle have died.

Chenjerai Njagu, deputy director of the state-run Veterinary Technical Services Department, said there are fears the outbreak could be far more widespread, given that rains can act as a major vector of the disease.

“In the three provinces, we have had about 100 deaths and what is worrying is no reportage of some cases. We only pick up some of the cases when people come to clinics with symptoms of anthrax,” Njagu said.

The disease is passed to humans through contact with the animals, or eating infected meat.

Victims suffer from nausea and fever, developing sores.

In normal times Zimbabwe’s relatively efficient veterinary service would be expected to control the outbreak.

These, though, are far from normal times. Njagu said government was cash-strapped and urged farmers to pool resources, buy the vaccines and government can help with veterinary officers to conduct the vaccination programme.

Farmers in the communal area say infected cattle are being driven onto fresh pastures without hindrance, spreading the disease.

The outbreak threatens to decimate further the already meagre national herd that has been steadily declining since the illegal invasions of white-owned farms by Zanu PF supporters throughout the country in 2000.

In the southeast of the country there are also growing fears of a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. - Gift Phiri

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