Fisheries issues anthrax warning

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John Muyamba

Rundu-Residents along a radius of 139 km from Bwabwata National Park where 109 hippos died from anthrax are cautioned to minimise the use of the river and to avoid fishing.

Bwabwata is in Mukwe Constituency but anthrax was also confirmed in Ndiyona Constituency where two buffalos died of the deadly disease earlier this month.

“Please be informed that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources hereby invites the public not to catch, handle, move or eat fish from the affected area due to the outbreak of anthrax, in this case from the Botswana border up to the Quito River conjunction at Katere, a 139 km stretch of the Kavango River in the Kavango East Region,” the fisheries ministry said in a statement earlier last week.

The ministry said the movement of nets and boats (discharge of ballast and live well water) from the affected area should not take place.

“It’s just a notice, because of the anthrax outbreak, it’s not really a ban. It’s just a precautionary notice to minimise the movement of boats, nets and people from the infected area to the rest of Namibia, because we don’t know how far the anthrax has spread. The outbreak was in the Mahango core area but some hippos went as far as up to Andara side from the park,” said the acting chief fisheries biologist at fisheries and marine resources, Francois Jacobs.

“People must take notice because we don’t know if the anthrax affects fish – we don’t know if through fish consumption people can contract the anthrax, that is why we are notifying people living along this affected area, but it is not illegal to fish, people can continue fishing, we just want them to be vigilant.”
“You know if you are fishing and you put your hands in the water but you have a sore, you can easily get the infection,” Francois added.

“You know anthrax – you got 80 percent chance of dying when you contract anthrax, that is why we want people to be
cautious.”

“Boats can also spread anthrax along the river – we just want people to be careful because the bacteria is still in the water, but I think in a week or two it should be fine but for now people living along this river, who make use of the river for fishing as well as drinking water, should be careful because we not aware of where this outbreak came from and how far it has spread along this river, as the bacteria is transported by water,” Francois noted.
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and is spread by contact with the spores of bacteria.

There is a possibility that fish in contact with contaminated water can spread the spores.
Kamutjonga Inland Fisheries Institute in Mukwe Constituency is the information and emergency response centre for the fisheries ministry.

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