Over 50 people from Mpoza village outside Tsolo were rushed to various hospitals around Mthatha on Thursday, after eating meat from a cow that had reportedly died from a snake bite.
Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the patients were initially ferried to Dr Malizo Mpehle Memorial Hospital in Tsolo, where some of them reported that they had eaten the meat from the carcass of an animal that had died after being bitten by a snake.
He said the patients experienced diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches and stomach cramps.
Among those who were ill were 16 children, eight of whom had been transferred to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital's paediatric ward, while the others were treated at Mthatha Regional Hospital.
Kupelo said four elderly patients were also transferred to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital for further treatment.
"Given the mass casualty nature of the incident, St Barnabas Hospital in Libode has also been put on standby to create space for additional patients that don't require tertiary or regional services," he said.
Kupelo said the department was urging communities to stop consuming meat from dead animals as it was dangerous to do so.