Healio.com reports that a 2011 outbreak of anthrax in Zambia was caused by human contact with meat from hippopotamuses that had died of the bacteria, according to a study in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study pointed to chronic food insecurity as a cause of the outbreak, as well as other zoonotic infections.
Herbivores like hippos are thought to be infected by Bacillus anthracis spores that they ingest from soil, water or vegetation, according to the report. They can dig up and activate dormant spores while foraging deep into riverbeds for food and water during the dry season.
Between August and September 2011, more than 500 people were infected and five died from anthrax in the district of Chama in northeastern Zambia. According to the researchers, the outbreak occurred during the same period that 85 hippos died of suspected anthrax in a game management area along the South Luangwa River. Most of the human cases were cured with oral ciprofloxacin.
An investigation showed that carrying, skinning and butchering dead hippos for meals was specifically associated with human infection — a finding consistent with other anthrax outbreaks associated with contaminated meats. Food insecurity was named as the driving force behind the outbreak.