ABOUT 32 wild animals have died of anthrax in the Caprivi Region since the end of last month, a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture told The Namibian yesterday.
Dr Frank Chitate from the Ministry's Directorate of Veterinary Services said the Ministry of Environment had informed him last week that 20 zebras, 10 elephants and two buffaloes had died of the disease in areas such as Masikili - which borders Botswana's Chobe National Park, where the disease is believed to have originated.
Chitate said according to conservation officials in Botswana, about 170 wild animals had died of anthrax in Chobe National Park since last month.
Of the 20 Namibian elephants, two died in Mudumu National Park, Chitate said.
Asked why anthrax always resurfaces in the Caprivi Region, Chitate explained that when an animal dies of anthrax, the anthrax bacteria change into spores, which can stay in the environment for up to 70 years.
Anthrax outbreaks were reported in the region in 2004 and 2005.
"That is why you will have anthrax outbreaks from time to time in an area where it has occurred before," he said.
He said the best thing to do when an animal dies of suspected anthrax is to burn the carcass.
Chitate said they believe that anthrax spread to Namibia from Botswana through animals that move openly between the two countries.
No livestock deaths have been reported yet.
A Namibian suspected of contracting anthrax has been admitted to the Katima Mulilo State Hospital, but Senior Medical Officer Sasa Mubita told The Namibian that he had not tested positive for the dreaded disease.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Agriculture started a mass vaccination campaign of cattle in the area.
Chitate said 180 000 doses of vaccine had been imported from South Africa last week at a cost of N$108 000.
About 16 veterinary officers, who will be split up into two groups, will take part in the vaccination campaign that will take between seven and eight weeks.
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