Paidamoyo Chipunza Health Reporter
SIX people from Makoni District in Manicaland Province have been admitted to hospital while 27 others were treated and discharged after they ate cattle carcasses infected with anthrax.A visit by The Herald to Makoni district yesterday revealed that several families from Rugoyi, Chimbike, Chikuruwo and Karani villages ate the meat before and during the festive season.
One of the victims, Mrs Patricia Manjeya, said she bought the meat in Dope for US$1 a portion before feasting on it with five other family members.
“I do not even know which animal made me sick since several people were slaughtering and selling their cattle after realising that they were sick. I bought the meat for US$1 a portion on several days and we feasted together with my family before falling sick the following day,” she said.
Mrs Manjeya said all hell broke loose on New Year’s Day when she developed a pimple on her head, which she initially thought was a mosquito bite.
She said the pimple grew bigger by the day to the size of a medium sized guava before it developed into a sore. She said the following day her left eye was swollen, prompting her to seek medical attention from a nearby clinic.
“When I arrived here (Makoni Rural District Hospital) I did not know that it is anthrax. I only knew that I bought meat from an animal which was slaughtered by its owners because of ill health.
“So all these animals which have been dying here were dying of anthrax?” she questioned this reporter with a puzzled face.
Mrs Manjeya has since received treatment and was discharged but the other family members were still to seek medical attention.
“I didn’t know that what we are experiencing is as a result of the meat we consumed. When I go back, I am going to encourage them to seek help,” she said.
Another victim of the disease was a four-month-old baby who got infected after she was fed with sadza and soup from meat prepared from the infected carcass.
The mother, Mrs Rosemary Sachikonye, said she started noticing a huge ulcer with a blackish centre on the baby’s chest and her whole body started to swell.
“This got me frightened and I rushed to the hospital for assistance. Upon arrival at the hospital, the baby was diagnosed of anthrax and received treatment,” she said.
Mrs Sachikonye said what puzzled her was that only the baby got sick yet the whole family ate meat from the carcass. Alphios Makoni of Muhonde Village blamed veterinary officers for failing to vaccinate their animals on time and providing enough chemicals for cattle dipping.
He said their animals were only dipping once every month yet previously they dipped every week. He said they were also being told that there were not enough chemicals to vaccinate against livestock diseases.
“It is so painful to lose an animal that you invested so much in,” said Mr Makoni.
Government has since dispatched a team of health experts to Manicaland province to assess and address the situation in both Makoni and Nyanga where there is a typhoid outbreak.
Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Portia Manangazira said an unprecedented number of villagers from Makoni district were exposed to anthrax and what health centres are seeing could be a fraction of the actual burden.
She said six of the villagers who also ate the meat are seriously ill and receiving treatment at Ru- sape General Hospital.
“A response team has been activated in response to these events. The team has been in contact with the directorate for Manicaland whose team is already on the ground,” Dr Manangazira said.
She said the first case of anthrax was reported on December 20. Anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease that normally affects animals, especially ruminants such as goats, cattle, sheep, and horses.
Anthrax could be transmitted to humans by contact with infected animals or their products. Its symptoms include a raised itchy bump (resembling an insect bite). Within one-two days the bump develops into a painless ulcer (typically 1-3cm in diameter) with a distinguishing black, necrotic centre. Nearby lymph glands usually swell within seven days.
Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, chills, and malaise may accompany swelling.