Kanguku villager displays blisters on his hand as a result of consuming meat suspected to be infected with anthrax. Photo Courtesy: NMG

At least 300 people from five villages in Kahumbu ward, Kigumo Constituency, Murang’a, were admitted to various hospitals, and others treated and discharged after eating meat from a cow suspected of dying of anthrax.

Christopher Ngugi, the owner of the cow from Kanguku Village, recounted how last Wednesday, upon returning home, he found one of his cows lying in the cowshed, displaying symptoms of an unidentified illness.

Ngugi informed the local animal health officer, who arrived to administer treatment to the cow and provide guidance on managing the condition.

“A local veterinary officer in my Kanguku village in Kahumbu Ward rekindled my hopes when he told me that the carcass of one of the cows was fit for human consumption,” the farmer told the Nation on Sunday.

At Sh400 per kilogram of beef, instead of the usual Sh600 per kilogram, Ngugi was confident that he would fetch at least Kes. 70,000 from selling the meat to neighbors.

The farmer informed the media that the officer, along with some men from the village, opened the animal’s abdomen and found that it had ingested pieces of clothing and polythene papers. These items are said to have blocked the animal’s airways, leading to its eventual demise.

The farmer also revealed that another of his grade cows succumbed to a mysterious illness. The carcass was buried under the supervision of animal health officers, who later confirmed that the animal had died of anthrax.

What initially seemed like a feast turned into a nightmare when those who had consumed the meat began exhibiting symptoms of anthrax.

Confirming the incident, Mr. Kiprono Tanui, the Kigumo police boss, said a suspected disease outbreak was reported in Kanguku, Karabai, Githembe, Kagwathi and Gwa Kiongo villages last Saturday, with victims complaining of skin sores and vomiting.

“Some developed swellings on their skin, running stomachs and nausea. We sent field officers who reported that the outbreak was suspected to be due to the consumption of infected meat,” Tanui added.

Dr. Stephen Ngigi, Murang’a Deputy Director of Medical Services, reported that atleast 300 people had been affected.

He advised the affected individuals to seek medical attention at Maragua, Murang’a, Sabasaba, and Kigumo hospitals. Those with milder symptoms were directed to Mugumo-ini Dispensary.

Dr. Ngigi clarified that ingested anthrax is generally treatable, whereas inhaled anthrax is more challenging to treat and can be fatal.

“Fortunately, we are not in a crisis and we have not had any human deaths. Some are in hospital in stable condition, while most have been treated and discharged,” he said.

He mentioned that the area would be under the watch of the disease tracking unit, as symptoms typically manifest between one and seven days after exposure. However, longer incubation periods of up to 42 and 60 days are possible for certain strains.