Effective Public Health Action Following an Anthrax Outbreak Among Hippoptami and Cape Buffalos in Bwabwata National Park, Namibia with No Human Cases, October-November 2017

  • Animal health
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Anthrax is a zoonotic bacterial disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax outbreaks in wildlife are known to cause human disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Humans are mostly infected through contact with or consuming meat from infected animal carcasses. A massive suspected anthrax outbreak in hippopotami and Cape buffalo was re- ported in Bwabwata National Park, Namibia in September 2017 by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). The objectives of our response were to confirm B. anthracisas the cause of the outbreak, identify human exposures, administer post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and perform community sensitization.
The investigation team consisted of FELT students, Ministries of Health, Agriculture (MOA) and MET staff, and CDC- Atlanta official. We collected samples from a subset of carcasses for confirmatory testing, we conducted household surveys to identify exposed people and administered PEP), and sensitized health care workers and community members. A suspected human case was defined as an illness suggestive of cutaneous, ingestion, or inhalational anthrax between 24th September– 21st October, 2017. Carcasses were disposed of by burial or incineration and livestock vaccination was performed by the MOA.
B. anthraciswas confirmed as the cause of the outbreak by molecular and histopathological Methods:. Our household surveys identified 125 people exposed to affected carcasses in the villages of Mwitjiku, Kamutjonga and Divayi that are within 1 kilo meter proximity to the Bwabwata National Park. Of these, 66 (53%) were females and 78 (62%) were unaware that the meat was infected. Additionally, 94 (75%) of exposed respondents reported consuming meat and 54 (43%) reported touching a carcass. By the end of the outbreak on December 3, 1,050 people were sensitized and provided PEP and 243 wildlife carcasses were disposed of. No human cases were identified.
This investigation highlights a successful One-Health approach to an anthrax outbreak in wildlife. Affected commu- nities were sensitized and provided PEP, area livestock were vaccinated, and interventions were implemented to control the outbreak. There was no transmission to humans or livestock following the prompt public health actions. We recommended continuous surveillance for anthrax.

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