Anthrax outbreak in Songwe confirmed

Saturday January 12 2019

Deputy minister for Health, Dr Faustine

Deputy minister for Health, Dr Faustine Ndugulile. Photo|File 

By Stephano Simbeye and Josephine Christopher @TheCitizenTz news@thecitizen.co.tz

Momba/Dar es Salaam. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that four people who died in Nzoka Village, Momba District met their fate after eating meat suspected to have been contaminated with highly infectious bacteria that cause anthrax.

Reports which were also confirmed by the ministry say 77 people have fallen ill after eating the infected meat. However, the deputy minister for Health, Dr Faustine Ndugulile, told The Citizen yesterday that the outbreak has been contained and there were no more reported cases.

According to medical experts, anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium known as Bacillus anthracis. Symptoms begin between one day and two months after the infection is contracted, experts say.

Momba district commissioner Jumaa Irando said the incident occurred on Wednesday and by Thursday, January 10, at 9am at least 74 patients had reported at various health centres for treatment.

Mr Irando explained to The Citizen that the affected people were feared to have eaten meat from a carcass during the festive season. It has been found out that the meat had not been examined by a veterinary expert.

“We are told that during that period many cattle died and residents ate carcasses and got infected with anthrax,” said Mr Irando.

Nzoka Ward Councillor Credo Simwinga said all those who died suffered from the same disease as those who were admitted to health centres, and further noted that they were both infected with bacteria that cause anthrax as confirmed by medical tests. Momba District Medical Officer Anno Masseta has also confirmed that since November 4 last year, there were reports of livestock deaths associated with bacteria that cause anthrax.

“We have now confirmed 81 cases,” Dr Masseta said and added that 4 samples were taken for lab tests. In two of the cases, two of them confirmed existence of the bacteria.

The patients are now being treated free of charge in the district’s government health centres.

A resident of Nzoka Village, Mr Samwel Malya (Manji), said residents in his area have a habit of eating carcasses.

Veterinary experts recommend anthrax vaccination for people who are at high risk of infection, whereas immunising animals against anthrax is recommended in areas where previous infections have occurred.

The DC told The Citizen that a call for vaccination has been issued.

However, according to Health deputy minister, there had been reports of the outbreak since January 3 this year, and that measures have been taken since then to provide information to Nzoka residents.

“We have provided information to the residents and issued caution against consuming meat that hasn’t been examined by experts. We have also educated them on how they can keep away from infection during the outbreak.’’