Health officials now fear spread of fifth deadly virus – it’s already in Europe

The World Health Organisation is in meltdown after another deadly virus emerged, adding a fifth to the list of ones wreaking havoc worldwide this month.

Anthrax, first spotted in 1752, has already made its way to Europe after reducing Zambia to concerning chaos with the virus detected in 684 people as of November 20. Of those cases, four deaths have also been reported, and it has been seen in nine of the country's 10 provinces.

The epicentre is thought to be the Sinazongwe district, with 287 cases being found there, including 50% of the deaths – it has already beaten the country's previous outbreak record, which saw 511 cases reported in 2011. And it doesn't just impact humans, either, as 13 domestic animals including 10 cattle and three goats being impacted.

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The disease is one of the rare “spore-forming” bacteria that can go from animals to humans, and is now the fifth disease spreading so far this year alongside the latest Coronavirus strain, season flu, the mystery China pneumonia and whooping cough. It has already been seen in Europe, after three cases were discovered in Romania in August.

A WHO spokesman said: “The epidemic is spreading along the provinces located along the basin of the Zambezi, Kafue, and Luangwa rivers, which is an additional problem because these rivers also flow into Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, Kahora Bassa in Mozambique and Lake Malawi, and the risk of anthrax transmission to neighbouring countries is increased.

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“The risk at the regional level is also considered high due to the frequent movement of both animals and people between Zambia and its neighbouring countries (such as Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe).

“This is compounded by the confirmed cases of anthrax spreading in provinces located along the basin of the Zambezi, Kafue, and Luangwa rivers. These rivers ultimately flow into Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, the Kahora Bassa lake in Mozambique, and Lake Malawi.

“Unburied carcasses of wild animals that float on the river increase the risk of international spread to neighbouring countries. They can spread the bacterium and infections to other regions, including neighbouring countries, and be eaten by other animals, which can further perpetuate the spread.”

What is Anthrax?

Anthrax is spread by bacterial sports that get into your body, producing toxins and causing severe illness. It can be caught from food, drink and working with infected animals.

What are its Symptoms?

According the Mayo Clinic, Anthrax has several different symptoms, depending on which version you get – with the worst case scenario for all version being death.

For the skin-related version, symptoms include a raised, itchy bump resembling an insect bite that quickly develops into a painless sore with a black centre, swelling in the sore and nearby lymph glands, and sometimes, flu-like symptoms including fever and headache.

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If you've eaten uncooked meat from an infected animal, you can get nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, loss of appetite, fever, severe, bloody diarrhoea, sore throat and a swollen neck.

And lastly, if you inhale the spores – the worst possible version – the symptoms are:

  • Flu-like symptoms for a few hours or days, such as sore throat, mild fever, fatigue and muscle aches

  • Mild chest discomfort

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Coughing up blood

  • Painful swallowing

  • High fever

  • Trouble breathing

  • Shock — an acute medical condition involving collapse of the circulatory system

  • Meningitis

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