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Anthrax scare at Songwe

By Feston Malekezo:

There is an anthrax scare in the Northern Region as four people have died and 70 others have been hospitalised in Tanzania, following an outbreak of the highly-infectious disease in South-west Tanzania’s Momba District.

People can contract the disease if they come into contact with infected animals—which are usually attacked by the disease— or eat contaminated animal products. Bacillus Anthracis is the bacteria that causes the disease.

Momba is among districts of Ileje, Tunduma and Songwe that make up Songwe Region in the Southern part of Tanzania.

Tunduma and Ileje are found along the border between Malawi and Tanzania and are frequently visited by Malawians for business and entertainment, among other reasons.

In light of the anthrax outbreak, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry has issued an alert to responsible ministries, asking Malawians to refrain from eating meat in the border district until the situation is contained.

Foreign Affairs acting Principal Secretary, Richard Pelekamoyo, has issued the alert through a statement which he has copied to his counterparts in the ministries of Health and and, Agriculture.

“We wish to recommend that an alert should once again be issued to Malawians to refrain from eating meat in the border district from uncertified places such as streets in view of the fact that the sources cannot be traced. The precaution would assist to prevent spread of [the] disease across the border into Malawi,” the statement reads.

Apparently, there is a temporary ban on cattle auctions and slaughtering in the affected districts.

Anthrax is a rare but deadly bacterial disease which presents fever, ulcers and shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and respiratory distress in humans, among other signs and symptoms.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, has said they have intensified sensitisation campaigns in the border districts of Chitipa and Karonga to control the spread of the disease to Malawi.

Recently, 45 hippos at Liwonde National Park died within months due to anthrax.

The hippos started dying in mid-September 2018 at Liwonde Barrage in Machinga District.

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