Anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe

I write this blog post with tears in my eyes, tears for the millions who are suffering in Zimbabwe. It was bad enough when these wonderful people had to accept a megalomaniac for president, rampant poverty, famine, hyper inflation, starvation and cholera – now there is an anthrax outbreak.

The outbreak has reported already killed three people in the Zambezi Valley though as usual this figure may be under reported,  this site suggests the human mortality is already 6, and that over 200 cattle have already died in Bulawayo. The disease threatens to wipe out livestock in northern Zimbabwe. Anthrax usually only afflicts livestock, but can be transmitted to humans who handle or eat infected animals consuming or inhaling the spores – watch a  film about how anthrax works here. Wildlife can also be affected and can be a reservoir of the disease. But it’s people who will die in Zimbabwe because starvation is leading parents to feed their children anthrax infected meat.


Anthrax is a disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It can be used as a bio weapon.

Anthrax spores enter the body through wounds or the lungs where they produce a powerful toxin. Most infections occur by skin contact resulting in a raised itchy bump that looks like an insect bite. Within 1-2 days, it develops into a boil-like sore and then a painless ulcer with a characteristic dark (dying) area in the center. A skin infection can be treated, if not, 20% of patients die.  Infection by inhalation leads to cold-like symptoms that after several days progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Eating contaminated meat leads to infections of the intestinal tract and results in deaths of between 25 – 60% of those infected. The first signs are nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever, followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. It results in death in 1-2 days after the start of severe symptoms. Although with proper treatment, deaths from anthrax can be prevented, Zimbabwean cannot get medical attention. Hospitals are closed due to lack of water, equipment, materials and drugs. Doctors and nurse are running away to neighbouring countries. As a result, we are likely to see many more deaths to anthrax in coming weeks as starving people continue to eat infected cattle.

While anthrax is not contagious from person to person, or animal to animal, when it strikes anthrax can have devastating effects on livestock, humans and wildlife. According to this article “A massive outbreak of anthrax in the wildlife of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe between August and November 2004 resulted in the death of almost all the reserve’s estimated 500 kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). Other species badly affected were nyala (Tragelaphus angasi), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) and roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), which suffered losses of approximately 68 per cent, 48 per cent, 44 per cent and 42 per cent of their populations, respectively. Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) were also badly affected and although their population suffered only a 6 per cent loss, the numbers of deaths ranked second highest after kudu.” To the authors’ knowledge, this was the first record of anthrax in wildlife in Zimbabwe.

Every day the news from Zimbawe is unbelievably worse – how far down can a country go? Harare the capital city is currently without water, which has been cut off due to a shortage of purification chemicals in a desperate attempt to contain the spread of cholera which currently affects over 10,000 people and has killed over 400. South Africa and the World Health Organization are trying to halt the cholera epidemic and prevent it from crossing international borders. With all that attention on cholera, will they be able to cope with the anthrax threat as well?

As I write this I am in even greater disbelief that the leading party, Zanu-PF are impervious to the plight of their fellow citizens. Is it just me or is there a deafening silence about the suffering in Zimbabwe?

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  1. Wim
    Posted December 3, 2008 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s just you. Sorry.
    There has never been deafening silence on the suffering in Zimbabwe, very much the contrary.
    Zimbabwe’s decline has been world news for years, from the “war-veteran” farm grabs, lawlessness, crop failures, oppression, rigged elections, violence, to the current 90% unemployment, official 231 million per cent inflation, starvation, cholera and now anthrax.
    It can never be said that the world has been silent, regardless of Mugabe’s accusations of western neocolonialism or the hypocrisy of fellow-african governments, but it does seem that former freedom-fighter Bob telling the world to “go to hell” played very well locally for longer than was probably wise.
    The good thing is he’s a very old man, the bad thing is, his generals and tainted colleagues aren’t.
    Yes it’s very sad.

  2. Kwesi Bacchra
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    So, Baraza, your tears flow for the people and wildlife of Zimbabwe while you hint that it’s mostly due to the manic policies of a megalomaniac president. But how much did you cry (if you’re old enough) when those arch-hypocrits in Washington sent their CIA man to deposit the antrhrax spores back in the 1970s — just one of the times USA has employed the biological weapon of mass destruction?

    It is the descendants of those anthrax spores which now rise from the ground to attack wildlife, cattle and humans. Already in this recent outbreak, just one in a long list over the past 40 years, has brought down 60,000 cattle and innumerable wild animals, while killing three people with many hundreds of lives under threat from this dreadful disease. You can check the facts in an official report at

    CIA agents planted anthrax spores in six out of the eight provinces of Rhodesia, as it was then called,infecting hundreds of thousands of African-owned farm animals and wildlife as well as over 10,000 humans of whom almost 200 died. No Europeans and no white-owned cattle were affected, but then great care was taken to spread the deadly disease only in the Black tribal areas. Meanwhile, in spite of official sanctions, the supply of military Landrovers, helicopters and other armaments was being maintained from UK, USA and Europe to the illegal Smith regime.

    I am as angry and distressed about the situation in Zimbabwe as any of those of us who risked imprisonment and even our lives in support of Mugabe’s freedom war, not just against Ian Smith and his rebel government but against Britain, USA, South Africa and the white racist world which dreaded the possibility of a white army being defeated by black guerillas. My own small part was in training some Zanu officers using knowledge I had gained when serving as a Royal Marine Commando.

    The old man who was our hero has become demented after a life-time of resistance to world capitalist domination of his wonderful country. But whatever crimes he has committed, were I to meet him now, it would still be with a respectful, fraternal hug as my own tears flowed over his loss of a sound mind and for the dreadful pain he has caused his people in recent years.

    Keep your tears, Baraza, for the crocodiles in the great Zambezi river.

    Kwesi Bacchra

  3. Posted December 14, 2008 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    You do understand, Mr. Bacchra, that Wildlife Direct is an African NGO and the people who write these blogs, especially Baraza, are Africans? So stow your paranoia, cynicism and American hatred where the damn sun don’t shine.


  4. Posted January 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Linked to my blog.

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