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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