Anti-Anthrax Campaign ‘a Success’

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The aggressive three-month vaccination campaign against anthrax in cattle in the Caprivi Region will conclude tomorrow. Dr Frank Chitate from the Directorate of Veterinary Services in Caprivi described the exercise as a great success with over 105 000 animals vaccinated against the contagious disease. Officials initially projected that they would vaccinate about160 000 animals in the entire region but according to Chitate, it was found that some farmers had already vaccinated their animals even before the mass exercise started. Since the last case of the disease was announced some time in October, no new cases have been recorded in Namibia. By October 2006, the disease had claimed the lives of 20 zebras, 14 elephants and four buffalos in the Chobe National Park – Botswana’s largest wildlife conservation area that borders Namibia. During a Botswana-Namibia meeting held on 14 November 2006 with the main aim of reviewing the control of the disease in the affected areas, officials at Kasane revealed at least 210 wild animals died from anthrax. Although this is a large number, Chitate says the situation has in the past few weeks subsided. This could also be due to the rains that have resulted in grazing grass growing long hence limiting the exposure of the animal to the ground. Despite Chitate declaring the campaign a success, he also explained that there could be a few farmers who did not take their animals to be vaccinated. The farmers are advised to report their cases to the nearest veterinary office in order to have all the animals vaccinated against anthrax. When the anthrax outbreak in the Caprivi was confirmed three months ago, about 16 veterinary officers and supervisors were dispatched to different parts of the region to vaccinate cattle against the disease. The exercise followed an urgent meeting that was held between Namibian and Botswana officials. While Botswana started vaccinating animals then, Namibia only started after purchasing 180 000 doses of vaccines at a cost of N$108 000 from South Africa. The disease this time did not only affect wild animals. A 28-year-old man was admitted to the Katima Mulilo state hospital for suspected anthrax. Although rare in humans, the disease can be contracted from eating meat from an animal that has died of anthrax. Anthrax is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which affects cattle, sheep and goats, usually causing death. People working with sick animals or their products can suffer sores, swelling, fever, pneumonia, blood poisoning and other ailments. 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 3 to 7 days with a range of 1 to 14 days, or more. In cattle and sheep, the course of illness may last about 1 to 2 hours. Clinical signs, such as fever up to 42 degrees Celcius, 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 the milk production and the urine of some of the cattle changes to crimson in colour.

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