Report indicts State over outbreak of anthrax in key park

Buffaloes grazing at Lake Nakuru National Park. 14 buffaloes died at the park following an anthrax outbreak. [File, Standard]
The State may have ignored recommendation on anthrax outbreaks at Lake Nakuru National Park, exposing animals and humans to grave danger.

The disease has killed 14 buffaloes with unconfirmed reports indicating one human infection in Elburgon, Nakuru County.

In August, the Kenya Zoonotic Disease Unit of the ministries of Agriculture and Health had declared the park an anthrax hotspot and directed routine vaccination of all animals at all times.

In a study to establish the cause of repeated anthrax outbreaks in the area, since 1973, the unit had blamed kneejerk reactions by government agencies for unnecessary loss of human and animal lives.

“Typically, the government responds to these anthrax outbreaks by immediately deep-burying dead livestock and wildlife, ring vaccinating livestock, and treating affected humans,” said the report.

Anthrax vaccination programmes in the area, the report say have been irregular and mostly planned as a response to outbreaks, “there is no routine vaccination practised.”

True to the report, on Tuesday, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) head of corporate communications Paul Gathitu said they had burnt carcasses of the dead buffaloes, disinfected the sites and started vaccinating rhinos.

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“We will vaccinate 15 white rhinos and 67 black rhinos in a window of 10 days. So far, we have vaccinated 19 rhinos and 63 remaining while vegetation will be disinfected,” said Susan Koech the Principal Secretary for Wildlife, on Monday.

The outbreak of anthrax was first identified on March 29 at the park which has over 4,000 buffaloes.

On Sunday, Nakuru County minister for agriculture Dr Immaculate Njuthe said one case of suspected human anthrax had been reported in Elburgon.

“If not managed well the outbreak can spiral out of control and find its way into neighbouring communities,” said PS Koech.

The August study by local and international experts, suggested inept handling of anthrax outbreaks in the past has not helped reduce recurrences. The experts had recommended the government develop an anthrax risk map for the country; maintain regular surveillance and vaccination of animals in and around the park.

They had also recommended public education and awareness on the risk of anthrax outbreaks.

The study traced 10 outbreaks around Lake Nakuru since 1973 including that of 2015, which killed 766 wild animals, including 745 buffaloes.

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Lake Nakuru National ParkBuffaloesAnthrax outbreak