300 people fall ill in Murang'a after eating contaminated meat


A resident of Kanguku village shows blisters on his hand after eating meat suspected to be infected with anthrax.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

When Mr Christopher Ngugi's two grade cows died of suspected anthrax in Murang'a County, he stared at the possibility of losing a Sh300,000 investment.

"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," Mr Ngugi told the Nation on Sunday.

At Sh400 per kilogram of beef instead of the usual Sh600 per kilogram, Mr Ngugi was sure that the Sh70,000 he would get from selling the meat to neighbours would help him get money to buy another cow.  

The excitement in Kanguku, Karabai, Githembe, Kagwathi and Gwa Kiongo turned into a big scare when those who had eaten the meat started showing symptoms of anthrax attacks while dogs started dropping dead.

According to Mr Kiprono Tanui, Kigumo police boss, a suspicious disease outbreak was reported in the said villages last Saturday after victims complained of sore skin and vomiting.

"Some developed swellings on their skin, running stomachs and nausea," he said.

"We sent field officers who reported that the outbreak was suspected to be due to the consumption of infected meat," he said.

 Mr Tanui said an expert from the Murang'a County Health Directorate had urged immediate mobilisation for those who had eaten the meat to seek immediate medical attention.

Murang'a Deputy Director of Medical Services, Dr Stephen Ngigi, said at least 300 people had been affected.

He said victims were encouraged to present themselves at Maragua, Murang'a, Sabasaba and Kigumo hospitals, with those deemed to be mildly affected being referred to Mugumo-ini Dispensary.

Dr Ngigi said ingested anthrax is easily treatable, while inhaled anthrax is difficult 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.

 But he said the area would remain under surveillance by the disease tracking unit as symptoms usually develop between one and seven days after exposure, but longer periods of up to 42 and 60 days for associated strains.

Murang'a Senator Joe Nyutu urged the county government to take animal vaccination seriously.

"Residents have been complaining that vaccination costs between Sh200 and Sh500. We should look at ways of making it less expensive, if not entirely free," he said.

He also suggested door-to-door medical services for affected families. He urged security officials to avoid the temptation of being overzealous.

"It doesn't make sense to start arresting people because of the incident. If there is to be an arrest, it should only be for those who authorised the meat to be put on the market," he said.

 Mr Tanui said there were "no plans to make unnecessary arrests unless it is necessary".