Namibia: Hippos Killed By Possible Anthrax Outbreak

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Namibian officials believe an anthrax outbreak may have caused the deaths of more than 100 hippos in one of the country's national parks.

An estimated 109 hippopotamuses have dropped dead in a Namibian national park, according to park officials, because of anthrax in the water supply.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial disease which is known to kill game, cattle, and sometimes humans. An arrangement of assaults in 2001 saw individuals tainted by Bacillus anthracis spores sent in envelopes in the U.S., causing five deaths.

"The other mortalities are dispersed over the river, and the crocodiles and vultures are feeding on them", he said, adding that this is a natural phenomenon caused by the low waters in the Kavango River. 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.

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The true death toll could be higher, as some of the corpses may have already been eaten.

It largely survives as spores that hide away in soil for years before entering an animal through a cut or wound. Infected anthrax spores have also been used by bioterrorists in the recent past.

There were an estimated 1,300 hippos in Namibia before the latest deaths, so this means a significant proportion of them are affected.

Kannyinga also said such outbreaks were frequent.

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Anthrax outbreaks are fairly common among animals, even large mammals.

Anthrax outbreaks are exceedingly rare among humans, and have usually occurred as the results of military activity, such as imperial Japanese testing of biological and chemical agents on mostly Chinese humans at Unit 731 World War 2 (killing tens of thousands of civilians), or the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax leak, where human error at a Soviet missile site released anthrax spores into the air and killed approximately 100 people.

"We strongly advise that [humans] must not consume this meat". In 2004, the BBC reported on a similar outbreak in Uganda that left at least 180 hippos dead, while a year ago more than 2,300 reindeer died after being infected with anthrax during a heatwave in Siberia.

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