Tuesday 10 October 2017

Suspected Anthrax outbreak kills over a hundred Hippos in northeast Namibia.

Authorities in the Bwabwata National Park in northeast Namibia have reported a suspected outbreak of Anthrax that has killed over a hundred Hippopotamus in the last week. Tissue samples from the animals have been sent for testing, and the cause of the disease has yet to be confirmed, but no other disease is known to be able to rapidly kill large numbers of Hippos in this way. Concerns have also been raised that the disease may have affected other animals in the park, particularly Crocodiles that are likely to have fed on any dead animals in or close to a river.

Dead Hippo in Bwabwata National Park, Namibia, this week. The Namibian.

Anthrax is caused by the soil-dwelling Bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which is indigenous to Africa, southern Europe and South Asia, with occasional outbreaks elsewhere. Bacillus anthracis is a gram-positive, aerobic Firmicute Bacterium, a group of Bacteria which are not typically pathogenic, but which includes a few species such as Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes which can cause food poisoning ot skin infections. Bacillus anthracis, is dangerous because its spores, a dormant state usually used to survive unfavourable conditions such as long dry seasons, can enter the bodies of animals via inhalation, ingestion or open wounds, and cause infections which are often fatal. Anthrax is particularly dangerous as, since it is naturally a soil Bacteria, it does not actually need to pass through an Animal host, and is therefore under no evolutionary pressure to minimise the damage to its host, producing a range of toxins which can quickly overwhelm most hosts. Because the Bacteria are typically absorbed as spores, the disease does not always develop imedaitely after infection, but can be delayed for up to two months, making the cause of outbreaks difficult to track.

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