In a recent revelation that has raised significant concerns, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has reported confirmed cases of anthrax outbreak infection in various farm animals located in Niger State, Nigeria. Details regarding the precise location and the scale of the outbreak remain undisclosed by the government.
Anthrax, a potentially lethal bacterial infection caused by the Bacillus anthracis spore, predominantly afflicts ruminant animals such as cows, goats, and sheep. This infection falls under the category of zoonotic diseases, implying it can be transmitted from animals to humans, especially when humans come in direct contact with contaminated animals or animal products. The risk of infection is particularly high when humans handle, slaughter, or come into contact with products from an infected animal.
The acknowledgment of the anthrax outbreak came via a public statement on Monday, authored by Columba Vakuru, the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria. Vakuru noted that a notification dated July 14 alerted the authorities about animals presenting symptoms consistent with anthrax in a multi-specie farm in Suleja, Niger state. The manifestations included a disturbing oozing of blood from various body openings of the animals, including their eyes, ears, nose, and anus.
According to the Ministry’s statement, a swift response team, consisting of federal and state ‘one health’ professional team members, was dispatched to the affected farm. The team undertook a preliminary investigation and collected samples from the ailing animals. These samples were subsequently tested in the National Veterinary Research Institute laboratory, and the diagnosis of anthrax was confirmed.
This event marks the first recorded case of anthrax outbreak in Nigeria in recent years, a development that follows closely after an anthrax outbreak reported in Northern Ghana a few weeks prior. Unfortunately, all animals found to be infected by anthrax have succumbed to the disease.
The Ministry, in conjunction with the Niger state government, has instituted proactive measures to swiftly contain and control the outbreak within Nigeria. These measures encompass the quarantine of the impacted farm, the distribution of anthrax spore vaccines to the affected and nearby farms for vaccinating animals in close contact, and the education of farm workers at the impacted farms about symptoms, preventive measures, and necessary steps when a suspected case is encountered.
Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a broad advisory to all livestock owners in the nation. They have been encouraged to exercise vigilance, report any suspected illnesses or unusual deaths among their animals promptly, and avoid contact with sick or deceased animals and their products. The Ministry also urges caution when purchasing animals such as cows, camels, goats, sheep, and other livestock from Nigerian states bordering Benin, Chad, and Niger, as well as from Ghana and Togo via waterways.
A significant aspect of the advisory emphasizes the prevention of home slaughtering of farm animals and the consumption of sick animals. This advisory serves as a critical step in protecting public health during this anthrax outbreak and reinforces the importance of being alert and proactive in the face of such potentially dangerous health threats.