MALAWI – Malawi’s Ministry of Health has declared a ban over the sale and consumption of bush meat in the southern region districts following an outbreak of Anthrax in one of the regions, reports Malawi News Agency.

Malawi’s Minister of Health, Atupele Muluzi who made the announcement said the ban would only be lifted once the situation has normalized.

Infected animals were identified in some of the districts including Balaka, Machinga and Mangochi and a national multi-sectoral team has been formed to contain the outbreak.

 “Although it is rare, people can get sick with Anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. We also caution people not to touch, open or eat the dead animal,” he said.

“The three districts have developed action plans including setting up of response teams. We are ensuring that medicines are available in all the hospitals in the districts.”

Director of Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa stated that the situation has been controlled thus no cause of alarm.

“What we are saying is that in specific areas of Liwonde where there is this disease, it is a restricted area in terms of human beings as well as other species of wildlife.

We are part of the team that is going around sensitizing the general public on the matter,” he said.

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Director of Animal Health and Livestock Development, Dr Patrick Chikungwa said the situation requires immediate attention and better sensitization.

However, he said the situation is under control as there are necessary tools and expertise to deal with the disease.

The disease which has been reported in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania and is attributed to climate change, one of the risk factors.

Following the observation of the disease, government conducted investigations by collecting samples for laboratory analysis which confirmed that the hippos are dying from Anthrax.

As of 5th December this year, 33 hippos had died from the disease. This is the first time that Malawi has recorded cases of Anthrax.

Domestic and wild animals such as buffaloes, hippos, antelope, cattle, sheep and goats can become infected when they breathe in bacteria from contaminated soil or ingest bacteria while drinking contaminated water.

People get infected with Anthrax when the bacteria is ingested, inhaled or through contact with animal and animal products.

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and can occur in four forms: skin, lungs, intestinal and injection.

Risk factors include people who work with animals or animal products, travelers, postal workers and military personnel.