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News: Four dead, eight hospitalized after eating anthrax-infected beef in Tigray's Hintalo district

In addition to Hintalo district in the South West Tigray, regional authorities stress that anthrax cases have been reported frequently in other parts of Tigray, such as Yechila town in south central Tigray. Tigray Region Health Bureau conducts integrated drug distribution measures for various disease outbreaks in various parts of the war-ravaged region. Photo: Tigray Health Bureau providing free medicines to local communities in March 2014.

Addis Abeba – Four people in Hintalo, South West Tigray, have died after consuming contaminated beef from an anthrax-infected ox, according to the Tigray Health Bureau. Eight others remain hospitalized.

Mebrahtom Haftey, Public Health Emergency Management team leader at the Bureau, attributed the incident to the consumption of meat from unvaccinated cattle.

He told Addis Standard that the incident occurred on 05 June, 2024, when a sick ox infected with anthrax was slaughtered and the meat was shared with roughly 500 people across 30 households.

According to Mebrahtom, out of the 17 who sought treatment at Adigudem Hospital, four unfortunately died. “The remaining eight are receiving hospital care, and the rest turned back home after treatment.”

Mebrahtom emphasized the role of the recent war in Tigray in creating the conditions for this outbreak.

“The lack of vaccinations due to the conflict and the resulting humanitarian blockade disrupted veterinary services,” he explained.

Anthrax, a zoonotic disease that can spread from animals to humans, was a significant public health concern during the war. The lack of vaccinations, coupled with the ongoing humanitarian crisis, left the population vulnerable to the disease’s lethality.

According to him, anthrax cases have been reported frequently in other parts of Tigray, such as Samre, Seharti, and Yechila. “Previously controlled diseases are re-emerging and harming animals and people due to gaps created during the war,” he stressed.

In June 2022, during the peak of the war which was compounded by the the lack of access to medicine due to the de facto blockade, the UN reported that nine people in Mariam Adi-Gesheti in Northwestern Zone of Tigray region were tested positive for Anthrax.

Mebrahtom disclosed that local health authorities, Adigudem Hospital, and Mekelle University are working together to investigate the outbreak further, prevent additional deaths, and control the identified anthrax cases.

He emphasized the importance of resuming animal vaccination programs to prevent future outbreaks. He also highlighted the need for increased public awareness about anthrax, including proper handling and consumption practices for animal products, particularly in vulnerable communities. AS

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