Sierra Leone’s health authorities have confirmed that three people have been infected with anthrax, a rare but deadly bacterial disease.

The three were being treated as outpatients in hospital and were in a stable condition, a statement said.

Anthrax is considered to be primarily a zoonotic disease, meaning that humans usually pick it up from infected animals. It is not an airborne illness like the flu.

Victims are usually people who work closely with animals.

On Sunday, the agriculture ministry confirmed an outbreak among animals in the north-west of the country, with more than 200 dying. It was the first such outbreak for three decades.

Anthrax can cause severe illness and be fatal for humans if not treated, but usually it does not spread easily.

Sierra Leone’s Emergency Operation Centre is closely monitoring the situation and increasing public awareness. The World Health Organization has been notified.

Anthrax is caused by bacillus anthracis. It largely survives as spores that hide away in soil for years before entering an animal through a cut or wound.

Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics but treatment needs to start soon after infection.


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