Anthrax in Human and Livestock: Investigation and Response, Turkana-Kenya, 2012


Timely outbreak response requires effective early warning and surveillance systems. This investigation points out the important role that livestock keepers can play in veterinary surveillance. The investigation revealed that pastoralists had good traditional knowledge concerning livestock diseases in general and anthrax in particular. They provided detailed and accurate clinical descriptions of the disease, had greater appreciation of the risk factors associated with the disease, and showed a stronger recall of the outbreak history. They also noted human cases consistent with anthrax well in advance of detection by the public health surveillance system. This suggests that veterinary surveillance systems could have detected the outbreak earlier by taking advantage of livestock owner knowledge and integrating it with the existing surveillance system. Weaknesses in both preparedness and response by veterinary and public health offices were highlighted by this investigation. Late detection of the disease in both animals and humans meant that the disease was well established in the livestock population before veterinary and public health interventions were initiated. Timelines show that outbreak of anthrax in livestock was occurring as far as late July and alarm bells were only raised after human deaths occurred. Although the veterinary office carried out ring vaccination, the intervention was late and opportunity to control the outbreak was long gone. More importantly, the investigation highlights the importance of a one health approach with strong linkages between the public health, veterinary officials and other stakeholders as a critical part for prompt adequate prevention and control of zoonotic diseases.

The outbreak investigations also highlighted the need for strengthening surveillance of zoonotic diseases. This can be achieved by the integration of the community animal/human healthvolunteers especially in hard to reach areas and predominantly pastoral communities.

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July, 2017

September 25, 2017

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