The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, on Monday officially confirmed the first case of anthrax in the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that a statement signed by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Dr. Columba Vakuru, said animals showing signs of a possible case of anthrax on a farm in Suleja, Niger State, were reported to the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria on July 14, 2023.
The statement reads in part, “The case was in a multi-specie animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep and goats located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna expressway in Suleja Local Government Area, Niger State, where some of the animals had symptoms including oozing of blood from their body openings – anus, nose, eyes and ears.
NAN recalled that Anthrax outbreaks are fairly common worldwide and mostly affect agricultural workers.
Humans become sick with the disease by handling animal products such as wool, hide or bone from animals infected with the anthrax bacterium.
Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The bacteria lives in the soil and usually infects wild and domestic animals, such as goats, cattle and sheep.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those with pulmonary anthrax are at risk of respiratory collapse and suffer the highest mortality rate of any anthrax victims, with 92 per cent of cases resulting in death.
The CDC said that the third form of the disease, gastrointestinal anthrax, can occur when a person consumes the meat of an anthrax-infected animal.
“This is the rarest form of anthrax in the United States, but it can be deadly: Between 20 and 60 per cent of all gastrointestinal-anthrax cases result in death,” it said.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the most common form of the disease, cutaneous anthrax, was contracted when bacteria spores enter the body through a cut or scrape on the skin.
Of the three forms of the disease – cutaneous, pulmonary and gastrointestinal, cutaneous anthrax is the easiest to treat with antibiotics.
It is said that anthrax can also be inhaled into the human respiratory tract — this pulmonary method of infection is most common among those who process wool and animal hides.
The US was hit by an anthrax scare in September 2001 after letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and politicians, killing five and infecting 17 others.
Meanwhile, in October 2014, an outbreak of gastrointestinal and skin anthrax in a village in Jharkhand, India, reportedly killed seven people, and in July 2016, nearly 100 people from nomadic communities in northern Siberia were hospitalised with the disease.
Recently, the Canadian authorities said they were investigating a suspected outbreak among bison in the Northwest Territories.
According to World Organization on Animal Health (WOAH), the infection with Bacillus anthracis (BA), occurs through direct exposure to active bacteria or bacterial spores.
The WOAH said that the measures for protecting workers from exposure to BA depend on the type of work performed and knowledge of exposure risk, including the potential for spore release from an accidental or intentional event.
It said that the adaptation of infection control strategies based on a thorough hazard assessment was necessary for implementing infection prevention and control measures, including engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) said the anthrax outbreak in Ghana poses a great public health risk to Nigeria due to the dangerous and highly transmissible nature of the disease.
The agency stated this in a joint public health advisory signed by its director general, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, and the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Columba Vakuru.
It warned Nigerians against non-essential travel to the northern region of Ghana, especially the Upper East Region where the outbreak was reported.
Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The bacteria live in the soil and usually infect wild and domestic animals, such as goats, cattle and sheep. (NAN)