Many of us believe we can kill the bacteria in our food, especially meat, by simply cooking. But University of Zambia Professor of Veterinary Public Health and Wildlife Medicine, Dr. Musso Munyeme, has revealed that there are a number of survivalist bacterial pathogens that are very resistant even to extreme temperatures.
Dr. Munyeme disclosed this during a Facebook Live Chat on the Link Between Zoonotic Diseases and Illegal Bushmeat hosted by Wildlife Crime Prevention. He explained that these survivalist bacterial species usually form spores which are able to survive freezing or boiling temperatures, waiting for the right conditions to bloom into deadly bacteria.
One such spore-forming bacterium that Dr. Munyeme highlighted is anthrax. He said, “The bacterium that causes anthrax forms spores when exposed to air and these spores are extremely resistant to environmental conditions and have been shown to survive in the soil for over 60 years.” For example, it was discovered that an outbreak of anthrax in Siberia, Russia in 2016, which sickened at least 13 people and killed over 2,000 reindeer (a species of deer), resulted when a reindeer that died of anthrax 75 years earlier was unburied by melting ice.
During the chat, Dr. Munyeme further disclosed that the anthrax bacterium not only survives in hot temperatures but that it actually needs them for it to become active. “When we want to culture it [anthrax bacterium] in the lab, we first have to boil it in order to excite it to grow and become active”, he added.
The implication of this revelation is that our long held view that we can kill all bacteria by simply cooking our food may not be entirely correct. “With certain bacteria you could actually do more harm than good by boiling them because when you heat or boil certain bacteria, you make them more virulent.” This means when the bacterium is ingested by humans, it multiplies rapidly, with extremely severe or harmful effects because heating made the bacterium more active.
This also puts into question another long held view, common especially among consumers of bushmeat, that dried bushmeat is safer because pathogens are killed during the process of drying. In reality, the revelation made by Dr. Munyeme on anthrax clearly shows that if bacteria can withstand boiling, they definitely cannot be harmed by sun-drying, the process used to dry illegal bushmeat.
Humans and animals can ingest anthrax from carcasses of dead animals that have been contaminated with anthrax. Ingestion of anthrax can cause serious, sometimes fatal disease. He also revealed that 96 percent of all zoonotic diseases are believed to be foodborne, meaning they result from people consuming contaminated and infected animal meat.
One of the ways that many Zambians are exposed to contaminated wildlife meat is through the illegal bushmeat trade. In Zambia, anthrax has been shown to be common in hippos, which are often exposed to anthrax spores as they search for food by rooting in the soil. When you consider the fact that hippo meat accounts for much of the illegal bushmeat being traded, the threat of a serious disease outbreak becomes real.
Dr. Munyeme also touched on the dangerous role the illegal bushmeat trade plays in causing zoonotic disease outbreak. “A lot of the bushmeat people eat is actually illegal. The danger is when you consume something illegal you are not going trace its source, how it was prepared or how it was obtained, it might have been harvested from animals which died on their own, or from animals that were semi-decomposed in snares.”
Poachers are always fearful of being spotted by someone or being caught by wildlife police officers. So, when they set snares in national parks and other protected areas, they often leave them unattended for days. As a result, a trapped animal can remain in the snare for days before its harvested and by that time, it would have already started decomposing.
To give an idea of what I’m talking about, I have attached a picture showing a dead impala in a snare. The impala is also pregnant so by the time poachers come to harvest it, the animal and its calf would have already started decomposing. And since poachers have a nothing goes to waste policy, this rotting and likely bacterium-infested meat will still be sold to unsuspecting people. This obviously increases the risk of zoonotic diseases being transmitted to poachers themselves and to consumers of illegal bushmeat.
Another issue that Dr. Munyeme raised during the Facebook live chat is the potential for the illegal bushmeat trade has the potential to diseases disease from areas where they are known to occur to wherever illegal bushmeat is consumed. For instance, while anthrax is a local disease that is known to occur in places with high populations of hippos like the Luangwa valley, when infected hippo meat is transported big cities like Lusaka and Ndola, the disease can be transmitted to those populated areas, where it may cause greater harm. During the 20011 anthrax outbreak that sickened over 500 people and caused more than 5 deaths, people travelled from far places like Copperbelt to harvest anthrax infected hippo carcasses in Chama. As a result, the outbreak was reported even in areas that are quiet far from Chama.
In a nutshell, the illegal bushmeat trade is closely linked to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. The illegal bushmeat that poachers sell often contains bacteria that are so resistant that even boiling will not kill some of them.
Chainama Hills Hospital highlights neglect and attention deficiency as key factors in declining school attendance among boys
CHAINAMA Hills Hospital has identified neglect and attention deficiency as significant contributors to the decreasing enrolment of boys in schools.
According to the hospital, mental health issues, particularly attention deficiency, play a crucial role in the decreasing attendance of boy children in classrooms.
This follows a statement issued by the Minister of Education Douglas Syakalima, who stated that, statistically, more girls than boys participated in grade 12 examinations last year.
The figures indicated that 49.40 percent of the candidates were boys, while 50.60 percent were girls.
The hospital which actively advocates for mental health, has suggested that implementing mental health programs in schools could be a crucial intervention to encourage more boys to stay in school.
Hospital spokesperson George Tafuna, attributed the reluctance of boys to attend school to attention-seeking behavior.
Dr Tafuna said the current focus on educating girl children has left some boys feeling neglected, leading to a decline in their attendance.
He called for increased parental care and attention for boys, emphasizing that some turn to negative behaviors to cope with attention deficiency.
Dr Tafuna pointed out the need for a balanced approach, with equal advocacy for both genders, and urged the introduction of mental health programs in schools.
He also noted that a significant number of boys aged between 13 and 15 years are being admitted to Chainama Hills Hospital for drug and substance abuse issues.
Dr Tafuna stressed the importance of interventions to address the underlying mental health challenges faced by these boys.
“The problem today is that we do not have many organisations advocating for the boy child as much as they are doing for the girl child. We need a system in which both genders are looked after. We need more programs also in mental health being introduced in schools. It is why we have been advocating for children and adolescent mental clinics in the country,” he said.
Dr Tafuna told Mwebantu in an interview that the Ministry of Education should look into interventions with stakeholders to address the matter.
“Sometimes you find a system where the boy child is left at home by both parents who work and expect him to go to school. But because of lack of attention, they abscond and divert to do other illicit things such as drug abuse. Some are even exposed to films which teach them how to commit offences, avoid school and also commit suicide. This is why we have less boy children taking interest in school,” he suggested.
(Mwebantu, Saturday, 27th January, 2024)
18 more cholera deaths, 457 new cases recorded
EIGHTEEN more cholera related death have been recorded in the last 24 hours.
Out of the 18 deaths recorded, 16 are believed to have died within their respective communities while two died at the treatment centres.
Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo and her counterparts Local Government Minister Gary Nkombo and Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mike Mposha have assured the nation that Government is putting in intervention measures to combat Cholera across the country.
Ms Masebo also that for families who cannot be allowed to visit their loved ones in this critical moment, mechanisms to have them call the health facilities are being put in place.
Ms Masebo was speaking during a briefing in Lusaka today.
She said Government together with health personnel as well as well wishers and stakeholders are working hard to ensure lives are saved.
“We have recorded in the last 24 hours a total of 457 new cases. The next new cases are being distributed as follows, Lusaka which is the epicenter has 406 cases, 28 cases in Central province, seven cases in Eastern, Five in Southern and four cases, one each on the Copperbelt, Muchinga, Western and Northern.
On the Copperbelt, Western and Muchinga we have what we call imported cases, while Luapula remains at high alert with no cases.”
“Currently in admission across the country, we have 1,117 in the last 24 hours, while we have discharged 588. The total number of cases recorded since the outbreak is 7,830. We have also recorded in the last 24 hours 18 deaths. Of these, 16 occurred in the community, while two at the cholera treatment centres,” she said.
She said there is a decrease of Cholera cases which can be attributed to a proactive health stuff and community awareness.
Ms Masebo emphasised the need to adhere to hygiene measures and to also quickly rush patients with symptoms to the nearest health facilities.
And Local Government Minister said Government is in overdrive in ensuring that they facilitate people with the needed amenities.
Mr Nkombo said his ministry has also intensified measures to stop indiscriminate disposal of any waste adding that street vending is one such issue which has contributed to the cholera outbreak.
He said if the indiscriminate disposal of waste does not stop, Government will be forced to fine perpetrators through use of the Statutory Instrument against indiscriminate disposal of waste.
Meanwhile, Mr Mposha said his ministry is in the process of installing water tanks and is mobilizing emptying of pit latrines.
He said his Ministry will adhere to President Hakainde Hichilema’s directive of burying shallow wells which have contributed to the outbreak of Cholera.
(Mwebantu, Thursday, 11th January, 2024)
27 people die of cholera
TWENTY SEVEN cholera related deaths have been recorded in the last 24 hours, Health Minister, Sylvia Masebo has disclosed.
Ms Masebo said of the deaths recorded, 26 are in Lusaka, while one is from Kabwe district.
She also disclosed that the country has recorded 567 new cholera cases in the last 24 hours and that 504 of those cases are from Lusaka.
Speaking when she gave an update on the cholera situation in the country at heroes stadium in Lusaka which is being used as the treatment center,Ms Masebo said government is on top of things and has called for cooperation from members of the public.
“In the last 24 hours, we have recorded 567 new cases country wide. Although most are in Lusaka which has 504 cases out of the 567. The accumulative total number of cases since October is now 5,463. Sadly we have lost 27 patients in the last 24 hours. 26 are from Lusaka. This brings the accumulative total of deaths to 223,” she said.
Ms Masebo said despite the deaths, there is a positive recovery rate being that 350 people have been discharged in the past 24 hours.
She said presently 1,059 people have been admitted in the health facilities.
“We need to ensure that those having symptoms are quickly brought to the hospital because 80 to 90 percent of the deaths are as a result of late coming to the health facilities. Do not wait for symptoms to exceed,” she said.
She added that other line ministries such as the Ministry of Defence are also on ground to help bring the situation under control adding also the vaccines are expected on the country soon.
(Mwebantu, Sunday, 7th January, 2024)