Officials rule out suspected anthrax case in Zimbabwe

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HARARE, Dec 29, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Zimbabwe's veterinary officials on Tuesday ruled out a suspected anthrax case from a rural growth point about 50 kilometers East of Harare.

Veterinary Field Services director Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu told Xinhua results of the suspected case did not confirm anthrax.

"We are ruling it out," she said.

The suspected case had raised fears that the deadly disease could be spreading following its outbreak in two central districts of the country last week where it killed one person and 25 cattle.

The disease killed 18 cattle in Seke, some 40 km South-East of Harare while the person who succumbed to the disease was from Selous, 60 km North-West of the capital. Seven cattle from one farm in the district also died of anthrax.

Department deputy director Chenjerai Njagu said Juru Growth Point (a medium-sized rural service centre) was in one of the few districts which were left out during vaccination carried out at the beginning of the year. The growth point is in Goromonzi district.

"We left out Goromonzi and Seke districts because of shortage of vaccines," said Njagu.

"Now these are the areas giving us problems because we had not vaccinated them at the beginning of the year."

He said the disease was dangerous as one case can kill several people who consume meat from an infected animal, adding that the department would soon move into the affected areas to vaccinate cattle.

The department vaccinated 1, 100 cattle in Seke over the Christmas holiday but Njagu said the turn out was very low.

"The turn out was low and we are going to repeat vaccination after the holiday," he said.

Anthrax is a soil-borne disease which is endemic in Zimbabwe. It is normally recorded during the rainy season when sprouting grass brings out the bacteria from soil.

The department has since ordered butcheries and abattoirs in the affected areas to stop selling beef to the public to prevent transmission of the disease to humans.