Nigeria Confirms First Anthrax Outbreak

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has confirmed one case of Anthrax disease in a mixed livestock farm in Niger State.

This is according to a statement jointly signed by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Dr. Columba T. Vakuru and Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) On Monday, July 17, 2023.

The duo said this was the first animal case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the West Africa outbreak in Ghana in June 2023.

They explained that “on 13th July 2023, the sudden deaths of livestock in this farm with eight (8) mortality was reported. In addition, the animals who died were observed to have been bleeding from external orifices without blood clotting.

“Following this report, samples were collected on 14th July 2023 from multiple species in this livestock farm and transported to the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), VOM, Plateau State for testing and the results were positive for anthrax”.

They however informed that further investigation was also ongoing to trace the source of the infection and to identify spread to other farms and humans.

Though human exposure had been reported, there were no reports so far of human symptoms or mortality. Therefore, “the FMARD and the NCDC are currently working closely with the Niger State Ministries of Health and Agriculture to identify, isolate and follow up all exposed persons. The NCDC has activated the incident management system (IMS) at level two (2) today with an incident manager appointed for effective coordination of the response”.

Meanwhile, the risk assessment conducted by the human health sector today remained HIGH for the likelihood of an outbreak and its potential impact among humans.

The statement also said FMARD was able to diagnose anthrax and provide early intervention within 48 hours of notification of suspected animal deaths.

Also, the Government of Nigeria, through the FMARD and NCDC, and other one-health stakeholders, has put measures in place to ensure any outbreak of Anthrax in Nigeria is quickly detected, controlled, and contained. These measures include;

Anthrax is a severe disease caused by the bacteria – Bacillus anthracis. It can affect both humans and animals, including wild animals and livestock such as cows, pigs, camels, sheep, goats, etc.

The bacteria, which exist as spores, can be found in the soil, wool, or hair of infected animals. Anthrax spores are resistant to extreme conditions and can survive in the soil or environment for decades, making controlling or eradicating the disease very difficult. The spores are brought to the surface by wet weather, by deep digging, or when eaten by livestock or wild animals when they graze.

In the light of this, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has urged all livestock owners to remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious illnesses or deaths in their animals. They should avoid contact with sick or dead animals and their products and exercise caution when buying animals from certain bordering states and countries.

People are advised not to slaughter sick animals as it can expose anthrax spores that may be inhaled. Products from sick or dead animals should not be consumed and hunters should avoid picking sick or dead animals from the bush for human consumption.

The ministry recommended vaccination as the most effective preventive measure against anthrax in livestock. Personal protective equipment should be used when handling sick animals and regular monitoring of livestock for signs of sickness is crucial.

Cases of animals bleeding from body openings should be immediately reported to veterinary authorities. Good hygiene practices on the farm, regular cleaning, disinfection of animal housing and equipment, and biosecurity measures are essential to prevent the spread of anthrax.

Sick animals should be isolated and strict quarantine measures implemented to prevent further spread of the disease. Early detection and reporting of suspected anthrax cases in animals or humans are crucial for effective control measures.

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