Anthrax Outbreak Not Yet Confirmed in Lake Mburo National Park

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The New Vision story published on Monday 25th April 2005 (page 3) that alleged that 50 zebras in Lake Mburo National park (LMNP) had died of anthrax. The story extensively quoted Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) sources that interestingly chose to remain anonymous.

The UWA Management wishes to make it categorically clear that the mandate to declare any animal disease outbreak or any emerging animal disease lies with the Commissioner Livestock Health and Entomology in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

While it is true that some zebras (41) have died in Lake Mburo National Park between end of March and April 25, 2005, the cause of death has not yet been authoritatively confirmed. It must be noted that over the years zebras have been dying usually at the beginning of rains. In 2004, one died while in 2003 and 2002, 32 and 13 zebras died respectively. Investigations carried out in the previous years indicated a soil borne Clostridial organism as the cause of death. The strain Clostridium tetani is known to cause tetanus in humans and animals while Clostridium botulinum is known to cause food poisoning.

Towards the end of March 2005, a team of Veterinarians drawn from UWA and MAAIF visited Lake Mburo National Park to investigate reported death of zebras in the park. Various tissue samples were collected from two dead zebras after postmortem and submitted to the Epidemiology and Diagnostic Laboratory, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Entebbe.

Therefore, any questions and clarifications regarding the cause of death in the zebra or any other animal disease should be directed to the Commissioner Livestock Health and Entomology, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. In any case soon after anthrax was confirmed to be the cause of death in hippos in Queen Elizabeth Game Park, government through the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry formed a National Task Force chaired by the Commissioner Livestock Health and Entomology. So even if anthrax was diagonized and confirmed as the cause of death among the Zebra in Lake Mburo Game Park government through the appropriate organs is now well prepared to control the disease just like has been done in Queen Elizabeth Game Park.

It should also be noted that there has been no hippo (or any other animal) death reported attributed to anthrax in Queen Elizabeth National Park since March 29, 2005, while for Zebra no death has been reported since April 25, 2005 signaling a possible natural stop. But monitoring, surveillance, awareness, laboratory testing and general preparedness (and alertness) will continue within UWA and of course the National Task Force.

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