Livestock stakeholders have been charged by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, along with its development partners, to take preventive measures against the outbreak of anthrax in neighbouring countries within the West African sub-region.
Specifically, the ministry highlighted the cases reported in northern Ghana, which shares borders with Burkina Faso and Togo. It is important to note that there are currently no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax in Nigeria.
At a sensitisation workshop held at the Karu abattoir and livestock market in Dei Dei, Abuja, on Monday, June 26, 2023, the director/Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria (CVO), Dr. Columba Vakuru represented by the risk assessment & communication focal point of the council, Dr. Dupe Hambolu emphasised the significance of creating awareness about prevention and control measures to combat the menace of anthrax.
Vakuru stressed that anthrax is a bacterial disease that affects both animals and humans, making it a zoonotic disease. He explained that the bacteria exist as spores and can be found in the soil, wool, or hair of infected animals.
Furthermore, he highlighted that animals can become infected by inhaling or ingesting spores present in contaminated soil, plants, or water. Humans can also contract the disease by inhaling spores, consuming contaminated meat, or coming into contact with the skin through wounds or cuts while handling sick or dead animals infected with anthrax.
Vakuru pointed out the signs of anthrax in animals, such as sudden death within a few hours without displaying any symptoms, shivering due to high fever, difficulty breathing, or convulsions, among others. In humans, signs include fever, painless skin sores or ulcers with a black centre, respiratory symptoms, severe stomach pain, and general body pain. He emphasised that the disease can be prevented or controlled by following certain measures, such as avoiding the purchase or sale of sick animals to the public, refraining from buying animals from areas where outbreaks have been suspected, wearing protective gear when in contact with animals, regularly washing hands with soap after contact with animals and maintaining proper hygiene and disinfection practices.
Vakuru highlighted the resilience of anthrax spores, which can survive in contaminated environments for several decades, even up to 100 years, making disease control challenging. Wet weather conditions can bring the spores to the surface, further complicating the situation. Given Nigeria’s close relationship with Ghana, which involves the border movement of humans and animals, as well as strong trade relations, there is a high risk of disease importation.
To address these risks, the government has implemented precautionary measures, including the establishment of a National Anthrax Technical Working Group (TWG), dissemination of information through press releases and the development of an incident action plan.
The CVO urged Nigerians to report any suspected cases of anthrax in animals for early detection, in order to prevent the spread of the disease to unaffected animals and humans.
The livestock manager of the market, Hanisu Wawu assured that all livestock brought in for sale or slaughter are closely monitored. He pledged to ensure that dealers adhere to the directives of the Federal Government concerning livestock, in order to prevent disease outbreaks in the country.
The sensitisation workshop was attended by officials from the Veterinary Council of Nigeria, butchers, livestock traders, and other stakeholders.