Elita Chikwati/Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
Government has warned the public against eating meat from animals that die from unknown causes as they risk contracting diseases.
This follows a revelation that the 16 hippos that died in Binga close to the Zambezi River recently were killed by anthrax.
Anthrax is a life threatening infectious disease caused by bacteria that normally affects animals, especially ruminants.
The Department of Veterinary Services under the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, confirmed that tests were indicating anthrax as the cause of death of the animals.
DVS director Dr Josphat Nyika yesterday said initial laboratory results indicated anthrax as the cause for the hippos’ death.
He said the area was an anthrax hot spot and this was not the first time that hippos had died from the disease.
Dr Nyika said the department’s teams were on the ground doing participatory epidemiology.
“From the symptoms and microscopy, it is highly suspected that hippos are dying from anthrax,” he said.
“We had an anthrax outbreak two years ago in the same area and anthrax spores can contaminate the environment for over 40 years.”
Dr Nyika said the animals could have been contaminated through contact with soil, mud or pastures as the river flows.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said it was important that veterinary surgeons and livestock officers across the country discourage people from eating such meat.
He said people may eat the meat and not fall sick instantly, but this did not mean the practice was safe.
“Sometimes the effect goes to the skin and lungs,” said Dr Made. “I am pleading that people should stop consuming the meat from any animal that dies on its own even if it was in good condition.
“Veterinary surgeons should be on high alert.”
Anthrax was introduced by the Rhodesian forces during the liberation struggle and the spores are difficult to eradicate.
The country experiences more anthrax outbreaks during the rainy season because the top soil will have been washed away, exposing spores.
Signs of anthrax include sudden death of livestock, rapid decomposition of the bloated carcasses and tarry blood coming out of all natural openings.
Anthrax can also affect humans is they come into contact with the blood of an infected animal.