By Confidente Reporter
A multi-stakeholder action plan, which includes four government ministries, has been announced to combat the spread of an anthrax outbreak in the Bwabwata National Park.
So far, 110 hippo and 20 buffaloes have died in the outbreak.
During a high-level joint assessment meeting held last week, comprising officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Kavango East Regional Council, represented by the Mukwe Constituency Office, and Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the following action plan to contain the outbreak was agreed to:
• A clean-up operation will be carried out with immediate effect, by removing all carcasses. During this operation, certain sections of the park in Bwabwata West will be closed for tourism or public access;
• The Directorate of Veterinary Services will carry out a vaccination campaign against anthrax for cattle that are in close proximity to the park;
• Livestock movement restrictions have been put in place in the Mukwe Constituency;
• The Ministry of Health and Social Services will provide prophylaxes to people who were exposed to the hippopotami carcasses and who are at risk of been contaminated by the disease; and
• The public is advised to avoid any contact with any animal that has died of unknown causes.
In earlier media release, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism warned the public not to touch or eat the meat of the animals that have died.
“To date, we have recorded 110 hippo carcasses and 20 buffalo carcasses,” the ministry said.
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can occur in four forms: skin, inhalation, intestinal and injection. Symptoms begin between one day and two months after the infection is contracted. The skin form presents with a small blister, with surrounding swelling that often turns into a painless ulcer with a black centre. The inhalation form presents with fever, chest pain and shortness of breath. The intestinal form causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Anthrax is spread by contact with the spores of the bacteria, which are often from infectious animal products. Contact is by breathing, eating, or through an area of broken skin. The ministry also said it was aware of concerns regarding the safety of tourists intending to visit the park. “In this regard we would like to assure our tourists that there is no health hazard to people as a result of the situation. It is important to note that the area in which these mortalities are taking place is not open for tourists, but an exclusive area for wildlife management only. However, as a precaution, we urge that tourists do not go close to the affected area by any means. “We are also aware of concerns regarding the species survival as these animals continue to die in big numbers. The ministry takes this issue seriously and will be able to respond to such concerns when the assessment is completed.
“To this end we do not foresee this situation threatening the existence of the affected species,” the ministry’s statement said.
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