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Zimbabwe Suffers Anthrax Outbreak - 2004-01-14

An outbreak of anthrax in Zimbabwe has killed three people and infected nearly 200 others. Health officials are struggling to deal with the outbreak.

The medical director for the southeastern Masvingo province, Dr. Tapiwa Magure, confirmed the deaths and said about 200 people have been treated for anthrax.

Dr. Magure says the health ministry has enough drugs to deal with the disease in humans, but there seems to be a shortage of vaccines for cattle to contain the outbreak. He said the veterinary service has launched a vaccination program in the affected area. But he said they can only do so much with the available resources.

Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. Humans can be infected by handling meat and other products from infected animals. Anthrax can also spread if people eat undercooked meat from an infected animal.

Dr. Magure added that the Ministry of Health has launched a massive education campaign in the affected area to teach people about the disease and how to identify it in their cattle.

The outbreak, which began three months ago, comes as another blow to Zimbabwe's beef industry, which once earned the country substantial foreign currency. Beef exports to the European Union have been suspended since a foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.