Nigerians at High Risk of Anthrax After First Case in Niger
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has warned that a risk assessment showed that the likelihood of an outbreak of anthrax disease in the country is high after one case of the disease in a mixed livestock farm was discovered in Niger State.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Dr Columba Vakuru, and the Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, also said that the potential impact of the disease on humans is high.
The government, however, noted that it had activated the incident management system at level two with an incident manager appointed for effective coordination of the response.
This is the first animal case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the West Africa outbreak in Ghana in June 2023.
FMARD said on July 13, 2023, the sudden deaths of livestock in this farm with eight mortality was reported, and the animals who died were observed to have been bleeding from external orifices without blood clotting.
“Further investigation is also ongoing to trace the source of the infection and to identify the spread to other farms and humans. Though human exposure has been reported, there are no reports so far of human symptoms or mortality.
“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 at level two today, with an incident manager appointed for effective coordination of the response. The risk assessment conducted by the human health sector today remained HIGH for the likelihood of an outbreak and its potential impact on humans.
“The FMARD was able to diagnose anthrax and provide early intervention within 48 hours of notification of suspected animal deaths. The Government of Nigeria, through the FMARD and NCDC and other one-health stakeholders, have put measures in place to ensure any outbreak of Anthrax in Nigeria is quickly detected, controlled, and contained,” the statement read in part.
“Plans are also underway to conduct nationwide vaccination of cattle, sheep, and goats against anthrax. Surveillance of anthrax will be heightened in livestock farms, markets and abattoirs. Public awareness campaigns on anthrax will be intensified,” the FMARD stated.
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 infected animals’ soil, wool, or hair. Anthrax spores resist extreme conditions and can survive in the soil or environment for decades, making controlling or eradicating the disease difficult. The spores are brought to the surface by wet weather, deep digging, or eaten by livestock or wild animals when they graze.
Anthrax affects humans through skin infection, gastrointestinal, and inhalation.