UGANDA—Uganda has imposed a ban on the sale of beef products as authorities grapple with a severe anthrax outbreak originating in the Kyotera and Lyantode districts of the central region.
Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis.
Given that anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack, or bioterrorism, the disease has grown to be a serious public health problem.
The spores responsible for anthrax occur naturally in the soil and commonly infect livestock, which ingest or inhale them while grazing.
Humans can contract the disease through various means, such as breathing in the spores, consuming contaminated food, or coming into contact with the bacteria through cuts in the skin, such as those acquired from handling diseased animals.
Daily Monitor reports indicate a grim situation, with at least 17 people dead and over 28 others bedridden in various local villages of Kabira Sub-County in Kyotera.
John Mary Lutaaya, the Kyotera district production and marketing officer, has implemented restrictions on cattle movement in the Kabira zone until the outbreak is under control, affecting local traders.
Moreover, residents are prohibited from hunting wild animals or consuming their meat. Lutaaya emphasizes that adherence to these guidelines will lead to the lifting of the quarantine after two weeks.
The anthrax outbreak, confirmed by health authorities on November 26, has resulted in the deaths of more than 40 cows within the past two months.
The sale of all animal products, including ghee, butter, and yoghurt, as well as the transportation of animals, has been outlawed in both areas until the disease is contained.
The affected sub-counties, including Kahagama, Kinuuka, Kashagama, Mpumudde, Kaliiro, and Lyakajura, will experience closures of animal markets and butcher shops during the celebrations, according to Dr. Ronald Bameka, the Lyantonde District Veterinary Officer.
Dr. Bameka has issued orders to all administrations, community leaders, security personnel, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations, livestock and dairy product groups, and the general public to follow standard operating protocols and rules and adhere to the quarantine restrictions. He underscores the importance of livestock farmers ensuring their animals are vaccinated, with the government initiating ring vaccinations in the impacted areas.
Mr. Godfrey Mbetegryerize, the resident district commissioner for Lyantonde, has cautioned farmers, dealers, and individuals involved in the sale of livestock products to comply with the regulations.
The gravity of the situation prompted a decision to extend the quarantine to the entire Kyotera District following a positive case presented to the Kyotera Town Council.
During a meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Animal Industry, as well as technocrats in Lyantonde, Mr. Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the chairperson of the Kyotera district, acknowledged that he, as a victim, initially sought traditional healers’ assistance before being admitted to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, as they believed the illness was “traditional.”
Of great concern is the revelation that some affected individuals are turning to shrines rather than healthcare facilities, a trend health officials fear will impede efforts to contain the outbreak.
The public is at risk of infection through contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products, resulting in symptoms such as blisters, fevers, swollen limbs, and difficulty breathing.
As authorities intensify measures to curb the spread of the disease, including the prohibition of beef sales and the implementation of stringent controls on cattle movement in affected areas, the situation remains critical.