Zimbabwe Farmers' Union

Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) ALERT!!!!!!

16 Jan 2020

Cases of Anthrax have been reported in Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East Provinces, farmers are therefore urged to be on the lookout for this disease.

Here are some Important facts to note about Anthrax:

  • Anthrax is a bacterial disease that affects a wide range of animal species including humans. Amongst livestock, cattle are most commonly affected.
  • The commonly affected farm animals include cattle, sheep and goats.
  • The animals usually contract the disease through ingestion of soil-borne anthrax spores which can live in the soils for up to 40 years
  • In humans, the disease is acquired from contact with anthrax-infected animals or anthrax-contaminated animal products
  • Symptoms vary and these may include sudden death, high fever, muscle tremors and unclotted blood discharge from body openings

Proper management of an outbreak involves:

  1. Timeously reporting sick or dead animals to the Veterinary Department
  2. Avoiding the dispersion of biological fluids during collection of diagnostic samples
  3. Burning or burying dead carcasses -never open anthrax infected animals!
  4.  Vaccinate animals quickly
  5. Anthrax vaccine is available at Veterinary Department or at veterinary outlets

Religiously implementing a livestock disease management plan is key for profitable and sustainable livestock enterprise!

How is anthrax spread?

  • In an infected area, the bacteria is in the soil
  • Livestock, particularly cattle, take up anthrax bacteria during grazing.
  • People are infected when they handle or eat anthrax infected meat
  • Workers handling anthrax-infected meat or samples are at high risk of infection.

 Seasonal occurrence of anthrax

Anthrax occurs all year round but in Zimbabwe most cases start from onset of rainy season and occur throughout the rainy season.

 What do I see in an animal infected with Anthrax?

  • Animals are often found dead
  • It is rare to observe the animal sick as death is sudden


 What do I see in an animal that has died from Anthrax?

  • Carcass has a swollen abdomen soon after death & decomposes very quickly.
  • Dead animals are found with dark or   tar-like blood coming from body       openings (nose, mouth and anus).
  • Carcass does not get stiff after death.
  • Should the carcass be opened by mistake, the most notable finding is an enormously enlarged spleen.


What can we do to prevent Anthrax in livestock?

  • Vaccinate cattle and small stock before the beginning of the rainy season.
  • Do not open suspected anthrax carcasses. Contact the Veterinary authorities or the ZRP.
  • Do not move carcasses from anthrax areas to new areas
  • Dispose of carcasses through burning or burying, following the advice of veterinary personnel