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Sierra Leone’s health authorities have confirmed the first cases of human infections of anthrax, less than a week after an outbreak of the disease in animals was reported.
The Ministry of Health says three people tested positive for the bacterial infection which was first confirmed in animals at the beginning of last week in the northern Port Loko district. A spokesman in the Ministry of Health said the human cases were detected in the neighbouring Karene District.
Harold Thomas, Communications Lead in the Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) told ManoReporters that samples from four people who presented with symptoms of the disease were tested and three came back positive for anthrax.
In Port Loko, over 200 animals have been confirmed dead due to the outbreak. Officials in the ministries of Agriculture and Health said they mounted an investigation in response to reports of several unexplained deaths of animals in Tinkabere Village in Kamasondo, Bakeloko Chiefdom. A total of 223 livestock – 91 heads of cattle, 53 goats and 79 sheep – were eventually confirmed dead.
According to Thomas, there has been no indication of human-to-human transmission, which means that those who were infected in Karene might have gotten it from either infected animals, animal products or bacteria spores.
Anthrax is described as a serious infectious disease caused by a bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. The bacteria occur naturally in soil and commonly affect domestic and wild animals. Human beings can get sick with it too if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. But the disease is treatable.
According to the Health Ministry spokesman, all the confirmed human cases were Cutaneous anthrax, which is the most common of the three types of the disease and the less dangerous one. The other two types are Inhalation and Gastrointestinal anthrax.