Caprivi Anthrax Alert

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Directorate of Veterinary Services in the Caprivi Region is investigating the possible outbreak of anthrax in the Kasikili area. Dr Frank Chitate from the directorate yesterday confirmed that two weeks ago a zebra carcass was discovered at Kasikili. It is suspected that the animal might have died of anthrax. However, the laboratory results could not confirm whether the animal died from the disease because its carcass was decomposed. He explained that it was difficult to detect for certain whether the animal died from anthrax or possibly another disease. Blood samples have to be taken at least within 24 hours from an animal suspected to have died from anthrax. “We could not see any positive results. The internal organs were decomposed,” he said. Considering that the disease can easily affect humans, Chitate appealed to residents in the Caprivi area not to eat any meat from an animal that dies from suspected illness. Though uncommon among people, the disease can also infect human beings who feast on infected carcasses, he warned. “We urge farmers not to eat any carcass just in case the animal died from anthrax,” he added. Farmers who have not yet vaccinated their cattle against anthrax this year are reminded to vaccinate their animals against the deadly disease that is caused by a virulent bacteria called Bacillus, which is spore producing and aerobic. Vaccination campaigns for this year started in July. The Caprivi is known for suffering sporadic cases of the disease. The last case was reported in January 2005 when about three cattle were affected. In 2004, the area was badly affected by the disease with scores of livestock dying after displaying symptoms of anthrax. Dozens of elephants and buffaloes in Botswana, especially the Chobe National Park, have also died from the disease. Cattle contract the disease from the grasslands that they share with herds of free-roaming wild buffalo, elephant and other game. Clinical signs of the disease occur when spores enter the body, germinate, multiply, and release toxins. The incubation period of natural infection in animals is typically three to seven days with a range of one to 14 days, or more. In cattle and sheep, the course of illness may last about one to two hours. Symptoms such as fever with a temperature of up to 42 degrees Celsius, muscle tremors, respiratory distress, and convulsions, often go unnoticed. After death, there may be bloody discharges from the natural openings of the body, rapid bloating, a lack of rigor mortis and the presence of unclotted blood. Infected cattle may also show a drop in their milk production and even the urine of some of the cattle changes to crimson in colour.