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Social Cultural Practices Exposing Karimojong to Brucellosis

Despite the health threat, the consumption of raw blood remains a cherished cultural practice in parts of Karamoja. Over the years, the mixture of blood and milk has remained a delicacy among the Karimojong. Mixed blood and milk are also used as a ritual drink in special celebrations, or given to the sick.
Moroto man drinking animal blood from the calabash.

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The consumption of raw meat, raw blood and milk are exposing Karimojong communities to brucellosis, a highly contagious infection caused by the bacterial genus Brucella.

Also known as Mediterranean fever, the disease is often spread when people eat contaminated food, under-cooked or raw meat and unpasteurized milk from infected animals. Brucellosis affects any part of the body, including the reproductive system, liver, heart and central nervous system.

It presents with fever, loss of appetite, sweats, weakness, fatigue, joint, muscle and back pain and headache among others.

But despite the health threat, the consumption of raw blood remains a cherished cultural practice in parts of Karamoja. Over the years, the mixture of blood and milk has remained a delicacy among the Karimojong. Mixed blood and milk are also used as a ritual drink in special celebrations, or given to the sick.

But health officials in Moroto are now concerned with the increasing number of cases of brucellosis in the district. Last year, the district registered 1,037 cases of brucellosis. However, the recent records indicate an increase with more than 500 cases recorded by May this year.

Moroto District Health Officer Andrew Rews Ilukol says most members of the local community have remained glued to social-cultural practices like spilling blood and direct suckling of milk from animals which expose them to brucellosis.

He also notes that meat and other animal products are not properly managed before consumption.

 

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Ilukol observes that whenever patients who present with fever and joint pains test negative for malaria, brucellosis emerges.

Moroto District Veterinary Officer Dr Moses Okino says that up to about 40 percent of goats in the district were screened with brucellosis during the routine screening conducted recently. He, however, notes that the cattle have not been screened for the diseases due to financial constraints.

"Sometimes, we receive animals from outside Karamoja in the restocking programs and others but we have very limited capacity to screen them. Even at the abattoir, we only look at the animals but reagents for screening for brucellosis are not there," Dr Okino said.

In Amudat, brucellosis is mainly caused by consuming camels, according to the study from Nabuin Zonal Agricultural Research Institute.

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