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Anthrax Disease: Everything You Need to Know

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On Monday, the Federal Government confirmed the first case of Anthrax sickness in Niger State at a mixed cattle farm.

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This is the first animal case recorded in Nigeria since the West Africa outbreak began in Ghana in June 2023.

The Supreme government stated that additional investigations were being conducted to determine the origins of the sickness and the spread to other farms and persons.

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It was observed that the risk assessment undertaken by the human health sector revealed that the chance of a disease breakout in the country is significant, as is the possible impact of the sickness on humans.

The following are some essential facts concerning the sickness that affects both humans and animals:
Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It can harm humans as well as animals, including wild animals and livestock such as cows, pigs, camels, lambs, and goats. The bacteria, which live as spores, can be found in sick animals’ soil, wool, or hair.

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Anthrax spores are resistant to severe temperatures and can remain in the soil or environment for decades, making it difficult to control or eradicate the disease. Wet weather, deep digging, or eating livestock or wild animals while grazing bring the spores to the surface.

Humans are affected by anthrax by skin infection (direct contact with infected animals through wounds or cuts); gastrointestinal illness (eating raw or undercooked meat from contaminated animals or their derivatives, including milk); and inhalation (breathing in the spores).

Anthrax can induce high fever, weakness, loss of appetite, bleeding from all body openings (nose, mouth, ears, anus, etc.), swelling and difficulty breathing, and bloody diarrhoea in animals. In most cases, it can result in sudden death. The blood of an anthrax-infected animal does not clot after killing. At the slaughterhouse, there is also noticeable bloating and rapid deterioration.

Anthrax can cause fever, painless skin lesions with a black center that occurs after the blisters, general body weakness, and difficulties breathing in humans, depending on the type and route of infection. It can also induce severe digestive problems similar to food poisoning.

Anthrax can be contracted by veterinarians, veterinary laboratory employees, farmers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers, cattle rearers, livestock producers and traders, wildlife handlers, hunters, park rangers, processors, importers, and exporters of hide and skin, and animal health workers.

People who consume dead animals (cattle, sheep, and goats), as well as healthcare staff, diagnostic laboratory employees, and caregivers who come into contact with patients or their biological specimens, are at risk of developing anthrax.

Law enforcement personnel (Police, Military, Immigration, Customs, and Point of Entry Personnel) and anyone traveling to a site with a confirmed anthrax case, both inside and outside of Nigeria, are at risk of catching anthrax.

Vaccination is the most efficient anthrax prevention method in animals.

Ensure that cattle have access to clean, safe water, and avoid utilizing water from stagnant sources.

Control access to the farm, restrict animal movement, and disinfect vehicles and equipment entering and exiting the property as biosecurity measures.

To prevent the transmission of anthrax to other animals or humans, sick animals should be segregated and strong quarantine procedures applied.

Cattle, camels, sheep, goats, and other livestock should be purchased with caution from Nigerian states bordering Benin, Chad, and Niger, as well as from Ghana and Togo via waterways.

Use abattoirs or slaughter slabs rather than slaughtering animals (cattle, sheep, and goats) at home.

Avoid contact with sick or dead animals’ meat/bush meat or animal by-products such as skin, hides (ponmo), and milk.

Avoid slaughtering sick animals. Slaughtering the diseased animal can result in significant exposure, with the danger of bacteria inhalation by persons present at the time.

Consume no goods derived from sick or deceased animals.

Before slaughter, carefully inspect livestock to be slaughtered for consumption or sale for symptoms of illness.

If you believe you or an animal has been exposed to anthrax, seek emergency medical attention or contact the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s hotline at +234 811 097 2378 or the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline at 6232.

Antibiotics and antitoxins are among the treatments available to doctors for anthrax patients. Patients with severe anthrax should be hospitalized. They may require intensive therapy, such as constant fluid drainage and mechanical ventilation to help them breathe.

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