from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – AT least 20 people have died from an outbreak of anthrax afflicting some five countries in East and Southern Africa regions.
The deaths are from over 1 100 suspected cases and more than 30 confirmed cases of the disease that is synonymous with herbivorous animals.
Outbreaks are attributed to climate shocks, food insecurity, low risk perception and exposure to disease through handling meat from infected animals, among other factors.
A surge in animal-to-human transmission and subsequent human-to-human transmission has been noted this year.
According to data reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 1 166 suspected cases and 37 confirmed cases have been recorded in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe this year.
Epidemic outbreaks vary per affected country.
Zambia is experiencing its largest epidemic since 2011, with nine of its ten provinces affected.
As of late November, Zambia had reported 684 suspected cases, 25 confirmed cases and four deaths.
In Kenya, three deaths have been reported this year, while there had been no deaths for more than 200 suspected cases in 2022.
Although anthrax is endemic among animals in Malawi, the country has reported its first human case this year.
Cases of human anthrax have been reported in three districts of Uganda, with 13 deaths compared to two in 2022.
WHO noted the high case fatality rate is due to patients presenting late to health centres.
In Zimbabwe, human cases have been reported every year since 2019.
“To end these outbreaks, we must break the cycle of infection starting with preventing disease in animals,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
WHO, a United Nations agency, is supporting affected countries’ efforts to combat the scourge by providing its expertise and strengthening collaboration with partner agencies.
It also works closely with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WHOA) to coordinate the response in impacted countries.
– CAJ News