Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Medicine | By Megan Pierce

Anthrax Eyed in Deaths of 109 Hippos

Anthrax Eyed in Deaths of 109 Hippos

"We first noticed the deaths of 10 hippos last week Sunday, but the number increased during the week", Bwabwata National Park director Apollinaris Kannyinga told the Namibian.

"It happened in Zambia before and it mainly occurs when the level of the river is so low", said Colgar Sikopo, director of parks and wildlife management at Namibia's Ministry for the Environment and Tourism. 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.

"Our veterinary services are now working at the area to determine the cause of death".

Anthrax is a bacterial disease commonly associated with dry climates like the African savannah, where it kills cattle and occasionally humans.

Government officials estimated that Namibia's hippo population was around 1,300 before the mass death.

It's now unclear if there have been more deaths than the reported 109, as local wildlife such as crocodiles and vultures have been consuming the bodies.

If confirmed, the anthrax outbreak wouldn't be the first, or even the worst, in recent years. He noted that the death toll could be higher, as crocodiles may have eaten some of the carcasses.

More than 100 hippos were killed from a presumed Bacillus anthracis episode in Namibia, New China announced Monday.

Such outbreaks are common in the region, added the official but insisted the disease is unlikely to spread further since the hippos lived in a remote part of the park.

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

Humans can become exposed to the spores by handling infected animals tissues or pelts or by breathing them in, which is especially deadly, according to the FDA.

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