FG confirms first case of anthrax disease in Nigeria

THE Federal Government has confirmed the first case of anthrax disease in Nigeria.

The outbreak was recorded in a multi-specie animal farm in Gajiri, Niger state.

A statement issued in Abuja by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) on Monday July, 17, said “the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria was notified of animals manifesting symptoms of a suspected case of anthrax” in the farm.

Anthrax, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, is a severe disease that can affect both humans and animals, including wild animals and livestock such as cows, pigs, camels, sheep and goats.

The bacteria, which exist as spores, can be found in the soil, wool, or hair of infected animals. The spores are resistant to extreme conditions and can survive in the soil or environment for decades, making controlling or eradicating the disease very difficult.

The NCDC in a series of tweets had alerted the general public of the possible outbreak of anthrax disease due to the reported cases in Ghana. 

The Centre while assuring that government has put certain preventive measures in place to ensure safety of Nigerians, urged members of the public to desist from the consumption of dead animals, hides (ponmo) and other by-products of bush animals 

On June 12, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had cautioned against consuming hides (ponmo), smoked meat and bush meat to forestall the outbreak of the disease.

The Ministry also alerted the general public on the outbreak of anthrax in northern Ghana, bordering Burkina Faso and Togo.

However, announcing the first outbreak of the disease on Monday, July 17, the Ministry stated that it was “deeply concerned to announce the confirmation of an anthrax case in Niger State, Nigeria”.

It added, “On July 14, 2023, the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria was notified of animals manifesting symptoms of a suspected case of anthrax in a farm in Suleja, Niger State.

“The case was in a multi-specie animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep and goats located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna expressway 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.”

The Ministry, according to the report stressed that it had deployed a rapid response team comprising federal and states’ One Health Professional Team to visit the farm to conduct preliminary investigations and collect samples from the sick animals.

“Subsequent laboratory tests by the National Veterinary Research Institute laboratory confirmed the diagnosis, marking the first recorded case of anthrax in Nigeria in recent years and after the report of an outbreak of anthrax in Northern Ghana a few weeks ago. All animals affected have died,” the Ministry stated.

FMARD also said it has collaborated with the Niger State government, and taken proactive measures to ensure the outbreak was controlled and contained quickly in Nigeria.

    “This includes quarantine of the affected farm, deployment of anthrax spore vaccines to the affected and adjoining farms to vaccinate in-contact animals, and educating the farm workers of the affected farms on symptoms, preventive measures, and what to do when they encounter suspected cases.

    “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 Ministry urged all livestock owners to remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious illness or deaths in their animals, to avoid contact with sick or dead animals and their products.

    Livestock owners were further advised to be cautious when purchasing animals such as cows, camels, sheep, goats, and other livestock from Nigerian states that share borders with Benin, Chad, Niger, Ghana and other West African countries.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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