The first case of Anthrax in Nigeria has been detected in a farm in Suleja, Niger State, Nigeria. It was confirmed by the Federal Government on Monday 17th July 2023.
Anthrax is an infection caused by spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus Anthracis. It is a major disease transmissible from animals to humans (zoonosis). It affects mainly ruminant animals such as cows, sheep and goats but it can infect humans through direct contact or through consuming contaminated animal products. It can also be transmitted through contaminated pasture, feed and water.
Just a few weeks ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development informed the public of the risk of an Anthrax outbreak in the country, following the confirmed cases of Anthrax in Ghana and other West African countries, and a few weeks after, a case has been confirmed in the country.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in a statement made on Monday said that “it is deeply concerned to announce the confirmation of an Anthrax case in Niger State, Nigeria”. It also added that “on the 14th of July 2023, the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria was notified of animals manifesting symptoms of a suspected case of anthrax in a farm in Suleja, Niger State.
The case was in a multi-specie animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep and goats located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna expressway Suleja LGA Niger State, where some of the animals had symptoms including oozing of blood from their body openings – anus, nose, eyes and ears”. And according to the statement, all the affected animals are dead.
Although the Federal Government said it has through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with Niger State, taken proactive measures to timely control and contain the disease. Measures such as quarantine of the affected farm, deployment of 50,000 doses of Anthrax vaccine, educating the farm workers, state-wide vaccination of susceptible animals against Anthrax and targeted public awareness campaigns on Anthrax. We don’t have to wait for the federal government before we can educate ourselves about this menace and take informed steps to protect both live stocks and human life.
Exposure to Anthrax
Firstly, Anthrax spores remain dormant in the soil for long periods and resurface when the soil is disturbed by flooding, torrential rains or landslides and then it’s ingested by grazing ruminant animals.
Anthrax spores can be ingested, inhaled or enter the body through skin injuries or cuts, they germinate, multiply and produce toxins. Insects transmit the bacterium between animals and humans are infected if they come in direct contact with the infected animal or consume contaminated animal products. It can also be contracted by heroin-injecting drug users.
Its symptoms in animals are blood oozing from body openings like the nose, ear, mouth and anus and the sudden death of the infected animal. While in humans it manifests in three (3) forms
- Skin anthrax (cutaneous) is usually contracted when a person with a cut or injury in their skin comes in direct contact with anthrax spores, it results in an itchy bump that develops into black sore, other symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, fever and vomiting. It is the most common form.
- Gastrointestinal anthrax is gotten from eating undercooked meat of an infected animal, it causes symptoms similar to food poisoning but can worsen to severe abdominal pain, vomiting of blood and severe diarrhoea.
- The rarest and most severe form of anthrax is the pulmonary or inhalation anthrax. It is caused as a result of a person being directly exposed to and breathing in a large amount of anthrax spores suspended in the air. The first symptoms are similar to the common cold but can rapidly progress to severe breathing difficulties and shock.
Precautions against Anthrax Spores
Now. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has urged all livestock owners to remain vigilant, promptly report any suspicion of illness or deaths on their farms, avoid slaughtering sick animals such as “bush meat”, report any incidence of the sudden death of animals to the nearest veterinary authorities and use personal protective gears (like, gloves, facemasks, goggles, boots) when handling sick or dead animals.
In addition, we must wash, sterilize and properly cook our meals before consumption, wear protective gear when visiting the abattoirs and be vigilant and if possible, stay away from ruminant meat for the main time until the coast is clear, as the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”.