The disease caused by a bacterium causes skin ulcers. According to the WHO, 1,200 people have fallen ill and 20 have died since last June. But diagnostic tests often come back negative
A mysterious epidemic of anthrax it has been affecting five African countries for months and according to the World Health Organization at least 1200 people have been infected and 20 have died. As reported by New York Times the official count does not clarify the exact nature and extent of the outbreaks. Of the 1,166 suspected anthrax cases in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, only 35 were confirmed with laboratory tests. According to experts, these discrepancies are not that unusual in areas with such limited resources. In Uganda many suspected anthrax cases have tested negative, raising the I suspect a second disease is circulating with similar symptoms. It could simply be that the diagnostic tests are inadequate, or that you have a moderate number of anthrax cases and at the same time have an epidemic of something else that might look similar, disease expert Dr. Andrew Pavia told the New York Times infectious diseases at the University of Utah who advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on anthrax treatment guidelines.
Anthrax it typically does not spread between peopleso so far it is believed that epidemics are limited to people who have consumed meat from infected animals. Uganda has now banned the sale of beef products.
Anthrax is an acute infection caused by extraordinarily resistant bacteria called
which can survive in soil and water for decades or even centuries. Cattle become infected when they ingest spores in the ground while they graze and can become ill and die within two or three days. Outbreaks in livestock are more likely after heavy rains, as has recently occurred in eastern and southern African countries.
Anthrax also affects men with milder forms skin ulcers and more serious (but rarer) septic forms linked toinhalation of spores which can even lead to death. Sporadic anthrax outbreaks in wild animals and cattle are not that rare in these countries, but five simultaneous outbreaks is an anomalous situation that has attracted media interest.
According to a report cited by the New York Times in Uganda, the first suspicious livestock death occurred last June in Kyotera district, and the first sudden human death was reported in July. By the end of October, at least 24 animals had died and the outbreak then moved with other infected people and animals to Kalungu district, about 45 miles north of Kyotera. In mid-October, some people began reporting itchy skin lesions on their arms and hands, numbness in their limbs, and headaches. As of December 6, Uganda’s official tally was 48 presumptive cases. But of the 11 for whom results were available, only three tested positive for anthrax; the remainder were negative. Hence the mystery surrounding the disease. Uganda’s laboratory facilities can reliably test for anthrax, but only if samples are taken and processed correctly, said Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez, an expert on hemorrhagic fevers. Jean Kaseya, director general of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified that doctors rely mostly on patients’ symptoms and any links to diseased cattle or contaminated meat to make the diagnosis. Convinced that the witchcraft is the cause of the disease, many patients avoid clinics to rely on traditional healers. The New York Times tells the story of a 68-year-old farmer who thinks he got sick after eating contaminated meat. For a month he sought herbal treatment after turning to a traditional healer before going to a real hospital where he was treated with antibiotics and the swelling in his arms is now decreasing.
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December 22, 2023 (modified December 22, 2023 | 12:14)
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