Nine people from Binga District, Matabeleland North, are being treated for anthrax after consuming meat from infected hippos that died a fortnight ago. Anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by bacteria that normally affects animals, especially ruminants. Speaking to The Herald yesterday, Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Nyasha Masuka said the nine, who included three children, were among 58 others whom health workers were following up for possible infection.
"We have so far treated nine people, five males and three females, from Siansundu village for anthrax and our teams are closely monitoring 58 others who also ate the dead hippos for any signs or symptoms of the disease," said Dr Masuka.
He said of the nine infected, eight had subsuternous anthrax which affects the skin and manifests in the form of ulcers, while one was complaining of headache, which is synonymous with meningital anthrax.
Dr Masuka said meningital anthrax affected mainly the brain and its symptoms included headaches.
Other forms of anthrax include intestinal, whose symptoms are normally vomiting, and pulmonary anthrax, which affects the lungs.
Two weeks ago, 16 hippos were found dead along the Zambezi river in Binga.
Although initial suspicion of the cause of the animal's death was poisoning, the Department of Veterinary Services under the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development confirmed that anthrax had caused the death.
According to the department, Binga was an anthrax hot spot and this was not the first time that hippos had died from the disease in the area.