Human anthrax case recorded in Malawi


The Ministry of Health has confirmed that Malawi has recorded one case of anthrax in a person at one of the health facilities in Mzimba.

Confirming the development through a press statement released today 28 November, 2023 was Secretary for Health Dr Samson Mndolo who indicated that the ministry is currently working on treating the patient and making sure that the disease should not spread further.

“The Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public about a recently confirmed case of anthrax in human in the country. The affected individual was clinically diagnosed with anthrax at a health facility in Mzimba district and the diagnosis was confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory at the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM) in Lilongwe on 27th November, 2023.

“The Ministry of Health is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development), healthcare professionals, local authorities, and international partners such as the World Health Organization to ensure proper surveillance, response, and timely treatment of the patient,” reads part of the statement.

According to the statement, Anthrax is primarily an animal disease caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis, commonly found in animals such as hippos, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and others. However, it can occasionally affect humans who come into contact with infected animals or animal products.

It is reported that transmission to humans usually occurs through direct contact with infected animals or by handling contaminated animal products, such as hides, wool, or meat and the ministry says while anthrax can be a severe illness, it is not transmitted from person to person.

“The Ministry of Health would like to assure the public that the situation is being handled with utmost care and that there is no cause for panic or alarm. General signs and symptoms of anthrax depend on how anthrax has entered the person’s body.

“Typically, anthrax gets into the body through the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal system. Therefore, the general signs and symptoms of anthrax include: blisters, painless skin sores (with black center on the face, neck, arms or hands), fever, general body pains, headache, swelling of neck or neck glands, cough, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, sore throat and flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea which may be bloody,” reads another part of the statement.

To prevent further infections, the Ministry of Health has urged people to avoid contact with sick or dead animals, especially those displaying unusual symptoms and says people should avoid consuming meat or other products from animals suspected of being infected with anthrax.

People have also been urged to remain vigilant, report any suspected cases, and cooperate with the health authorities to prevent further spread of the disease.