Anthrax Epizootic in Zimbabwe, 1978-1980: Due to Deliberate Spread?

The largest recorded outbreak of anthrax in humans occurred in Zimbabwe during its civil war, in 1979 to 1980. There were a number of unusual features of the epizootic. The disease spread over time from area to area, until six of the eight provinces were affected. Yet anthrax usually appears as a point source outbreak, without significant geographic spread. Only the African-owned cattle in the Tribal Trust Lands were affected; cattle belonging to whites were uninvolved. A critical review of the scientific explanations proposed to account for these events is presented. The possibility that the epizootic could have been a biological warfare event is evaluated. Finally, suggestions are advanced for further investigations into the origin of this epizootic. [PSRQ 1992;2:198-209]
[CENTER]The largest recorded outbreak of anthrax among humans, and possibly the largest among animals, occurred over a decade ago in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, during the time of its civil war [1]. The outbreak was reported in a series of articles by J. C. A. Davies and others in the Central African Journal of Medicine [2-8]. Little was written about it outside of Africa. Over 10,000 human cases and 182 human deaths were documented [9]. Human cases were secondary to an unprecedented outbreak in cattle [5,10].[/CENTER]