Ministry of Health investigates anthrax outbreak

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE Ministry Health is investigating suspected cases of the deadly anthrax bacteria after several villagers who consumed meat from infected animals started showing symptoms of the disease.

Officials from the ministry this week said so far, all the villagers from 15 villages that have been tested were negative despite the symptoms.

The officials said they would continue to monitor the villagers as the disease has so far killed over 50 animals in Maseru.

Anthrax is a rare but serious illness caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. It mainly affects livestock and wild game which often die immediately after infection.

Humans get infected through contact with the infected animals, consumption of infected meat, breathing in the bacteria or eating food or drink water that is contaminated with the spores.

The bacteria can spread out in the body, produce toxins, and cause severe illnesses that include diarrhea and vomiting while blood may be seen in the nose, eyes and anus of the carcass.

Makhoase Ranyali, the Maseru District health manager, said several villagers have shown symptoms of the disease after consumption of meat from an infected animal.

She said the symptoms in humans were first noticed on 5 April this year in Likalaneneng.

“We learnt that most villagers ate the meat from livestock that tested positive and were showing signs associated with the bacteria but fortunately so far no one has been diagnosed with anthrax,” Dr Ranyali said.

“We will continue to monitor them as sometimes the disease manifests after three months.

“The villages that we are monitoring include Setibing, Abia and Borokhoaneng and we are also waiting for the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct tests on some of the livestock in Halejoe.”

She said they have also embarked on awareness exercises to ensure that the communities avoid eating infected animals as well as the proper disposition of the carcass.

“Whenever an infected animal dies they should dig a pit that is 6 feet deep right where it died and avoid transporting it as that would increase the chances of spreading the disease,” she said.

She said they also advised the villagers to use gloves whenever they handle infected animals to avoid contraction of the bacteria.

Dr Ranyali also advised villagers to contact the Ministry of Agriculture whenever they have livestock that shows signs of illness.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s senior veterinary officer, Mpaliseng Matlali, said they have already vaccinated animals in different villages.

“We injected cattle, sheep and goats with the Blanthrax vaccine,” Dr Matlali said.

She said villagers should spray the carcasses with lime as well as barricade the place where they bury the animals to avoid spreading the disease.

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