One person dead, four admitted in Kisumu Anthrax outbreak

In Summary

• Anthrax is a rare but serious illness caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis.

• Humans can become infected through direct or indirect contact with sick animals.

A file photo of butcher preparing meat.
A file photo of butcher preparing meat.
Image: FILE

Kisumu County has confirmed an outbreak of Anthrax.

Director of Health, Dixen Onyango on Friday said one person has been confirmed dead and 4 others admitted.

He said the disease was reported in Mowlem area.


"The four admitted are now doing well and will be released later in the day or during the week," Onyango said.

Onyango said preliminary investigations established that the five had participated in slaughtering a cow suspected to have died from the disease.

"We have told our facilities and the sub-counties to be on the lookout for anyone that shows signs of the disease," he said.

Onyango further said the county has so far put measures in place to make sure no one eats meat from a dead cow.

"The Health Department will be working with the veterinary department to educate the public on the disease and the signs to look out for," he said.

In April this year, two people died in Meru from suspected anthrax outbreak that left nine others fighting for their lives.

Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease which mainly affects herbivores.

Deaths are usually followed by human cases of sudden illness with severe abdominal and chest pains, headaches, diarrhoea, vomiting and deaths.


Most patients will say they had eaten meat from dead animals or animals that were slaughtered when sickly.

Carnivores are generally more resistant to it. The disease can also affect humans.

It’s caused by a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis which produces different types of toxins that cause haemorrhaging, swelling and tissue death.

The bacteria also prevents the host’s immune response. This allows it to quickly multiply in large numbers throughout the body.

When a host succumbs to the disease, millions of bacteria are released into the environment through bleeding or scavenging by other animals.


As soon as they’re exposed to the external environment – oxygen in particular – the bacteria transform into spores.

Spores can live in the soil for many years and are resistant to chemical agents. That’s because they have a thick shell that is well developed for protection.

Mammals are infected when they eat the spores from the soil where they graze. This is why infections happen more frequently during the dry season. Because the pasture is sparse, animals chew down to a level where they can pick up the spores from the soil.

People can contract the disease in various ways. It is mainly through contact with infected animal tissues, breathing in bacteria spores or eating meat from infected carcasses.

The bacteria poses a severe threat to human and animal health.