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Anthrax in Guinea Bissau: the OIE responds to the call for assistance

The Government of Guinea Bissau declared a human outbreak of anthrax in the Oio Region, affecting over 80 patients, with 13 hospitalisations and 4 deaths. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were informed on the 3 May 2005.

Anthrax is a zoonosis that affects mainly animals. Humans can become infected by handling products from infected animals. People also can become infected with anthrax by eating meat from infected animals.

The Oio Region's economy depends, mostly, on animal husbandry held by small farmers. The impact of the anthrax epidemic could be disastrous both for humans and the susceptible animal population if it is not quickly controlled.

The Authorities in Guinea Bissau appealed the international community for an urgent and strong support to control the situation.

The OIE has been in permanent contact with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Veterinary Authorities of Guinea Bissau in order to better assess the situation and to initiate the proper actions.

As an immediate step in response to the urgency, the OIE has allocated a grant from its emergency fund to enable the Veterinary Authorities to begin a blanket vaccination programme for animals in the affected region, which contains over 50, 000 cattle.

Since anthrax is a zoonosis, the OIE, together with the FAO and the WHO are strongly committed to jointly provide the best possible assistance in their respective competencies to the Guinea Bissau Authorities in facing and controlling this crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, USA and several non governmental organizations (NGOs) also proposed to provide support.