By Jeremy Laurance,
December 1 2008
To add to the peril of cholera, Zimbabwe’s beleaguered population is now facing anthrax. An outbreak of the deadly infection has killed two children and one adult and spread to 32 others. It is threatening to wipe out at least 60,000 livestock in the northern Zambezi Valley, aggravating the food crisis, Save the Children warned yesterday.
A quarantine zone has been declared in the affected areas of Matebeleland North but, because of the desperate hunger, some families are still eating infected meat. Traders have been seen taking potentially infected carcasses out of the restricted zones to trade in Victoria Falls, which risks the disease spreading across Zimbabwe and over the border into neighbouring Zambia. Symptoms lie dormant for 21 days and the death toll could be higher, the charity said.
Anthrax can kill when infected meat is touched, or eaten or when infected spores are inhaled. The disease has also killed 160 livestock, as well as two elephants, 70 hippo and 50 buffalo.
Rachel Pounds, country director in Zimbabwe, said: “This may be the biggest anthrax outbreak since the 1979-80 civil war and it could have appalling consequences for Zimbabwe. If it is not controlled, this outbreak could wipe out 60,000 cattle, goats, pigs and chickens that thousands of families are depending on to survive.”