Anthrax Eyed in Deaths of 109 Hippos

Officials say such outbreaks are not uncommon and usually happen when water in the Kavango River runs low

Officials say such outbreaks are not uncommon and usually happen when water in the Kavango River runs low

We suspect an anthrax outbreak, but our veterinary team is still to confirm that, ' deputy director of the park Apollinaris Kannyinga told the Namibian.

Bwabwata, a national park primarily meant for the preservation of Namibia's African elephants, is the site of the mass hippo die-off. An arrangement of assaults in 2001 saw individuals tainted by Bacillus anthracis spores sent in envelopes in the USA, causing five deaths.

"This is a situation that we have seen before", Colgar Sikopo, director of parks and wildlife management at Namibia's Ministry for the Environment and Tourism, told the New Era newspaper recently. Mr Kannyinga said anthrax outbreaks are not uncommon, and happen when the water levels become low in the Kavango River.

Previous outbreaks were not almost so deadly because anthrax is not a particularly infectious disease.

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It largely survives as spores that hide away in soil for years before entering an animal through a cut or wound. While the spores can survive in the earth for many years, they aren't risky unless something releases them. Infected anthrax spores have also been used by bioterrorists in the recent past. If that stagnant water makes its way into a larger body, or if an overheated hippo splashes around in an infected pool, then the outbreak could quickly spread to the rest of the colony. The hippos were found dead through the span of seven days, with the initial 10 deaths being accounted for October 1. The number of deaths is 109 but they are not sure and their veterinary team is now working at the area to determine the cause of death. There is also worry that humans will ingest the tainted flesh.

"We strongly advise that they must not consume this meat", Sikopo said.

If confirmed, the anthrax outbreak wouldn't be the first, or even the worst, in recent years.

At the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda in 2004, more than 300 hippos died from anthrax poisoning. Anthrax is most basic in agrarian areas of Central and South America, Africa, focal and southwestern Asia, southern and Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.

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