19 October 2001

Kenya No Stranger to Anthrax

Kenya is no stranger to anthrax. There has been a recent resurgence in the disease - commonly found among domestic animals and wild game - due to a breakdown in vaccination services.

What is new in the bioterrorism scare is the use of powder anthrax bacteria to deliberately infect people.

The powder form of the disease is more lethal than the one transmitted by animals because it is inhaled and directly attacks body organs.

In June, the Nation revealed an outbreak of anthrax in animals in parts of Nyeri, Murang'a and Thika.

Government officials claimed the situation was under control until last week, when the first cases of human infections were reported in Nyeri.

In the past fortnight, two heads of cattle have died from suspected anthrax, while scores of people who came in contact with meat from the dead animals are believed to be infected. Soon after two dairy cows died within days of each other, a group of people developed anthrax symptoms, resulting in panic in the village.

The Ministry of Health and the Veterinary Department have launched a public education campaign. A livestock quarantine has already been declared.

A student, Edward Mwangi, who participated in the slaughter developed blister-like wounds on his hands and other symptoms.

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