The number of hippopotamuses dying from Anthrax in Liwonde continues to rise with recent statistics showing that 48 hippos have died so far.
Director of Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that by January 4, 2019, his office recorded 48 deaths. However, he was quick to point out that the numbers are reducing on daily basis as compared to the month of October when the outbreak was first reported.
Said Kumchedwa: “So far we have recorded 48 deaths but what is clear is that death rate has significantly reduced. In the past months we used to record at least one or two deaths per day but now days are passing without recording any death.
“Usually Anthrax is common during dry-hot weather and the hippos get contact with the spores of the Anthrax during grazing, however, once rain comes the spores get submerged in water posing no threat to the animals due to reduced contact.”
According to Kumchedwa, it is difficult to treat Anthrax in wild animals so the better way is to carefully disposal off the dead animals to prevent further spread.
“We are doing aerial surveillance, quickly identifying and burying the dead animals. We are also advising people to refrain from consuming any bush meat. So far, people from the three districts of Balaka, Maching and Mangochi are safe as there has been to case reported on either livestock or humans,” he said.
According to Kumchedwa, before the outbreak, Malawi had an average of 2000 hippos and with the reduction in the cases, he was optimistic that the species will be preserved.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) confirmed last month that the hippopotamuses found floating on the Shire River were dying due to anthrax.
This followed tests conducted at the Central Veterinary Laboratory, instituted by MoH, whose results indicated that there was Bacillus Anthracis in the hippos’ system, a virus that causes anthrax.
The hippos have been dying in the upper side of the Shire River all the way to Liwonde Barrage starting mid-September, 2018 but the first carcasses were seen floating on October 10.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes anthrax as a disease of herbivorous animals that causes severe infection in humans as a result of contact with contaminated products or animals.
According to WHO, anthrax is transmitted to people who come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products and contact with anthrax can cause severe illness in both humans and animals.
However, anthrax is not contagious as it does not get transmitted like colds and flu.