Nigerian Customs urges action against spread of anthrax, a deadly livestock disease

THE Nigeria Customs Service has disclosed a likely outbreak of charcoal anthrax, a bacterial infection that affects cattle and sheep, as well as humans, in Nigeria.

This was revealed in a memo with reference NCS/ENF/ABJ/033/S.114/VOLIII signed by Dimka V. D the Comptroller (Enforcement) and dated December 12 to Zonal coordinators, customs area coordinators, comptrollers and zonal commanders headquarters strike force.

It stated that the disease was first reported in Niger, a border country with Nigeria, on September 23 where it has resulted in deaths of 22 cattle and over 100 have been infected.

NCS thus called for “urgent necessary action” to prevent the spread of the disease into Nigeria through the land borders “given the supply of cattle and sheep from Niger to Nigeria”.

Customs noted it had known about the possible outbreak in Nigeria after it received the receipt of a report from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and forwarded to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) of the outbreak of the bacterial infection in the country.

The infectious anthrax bacteria agent could survive for several years in the soil, before being ingested by grazing animals.

According to the World Health Organisation, anthrax could cause problems in the skin (cutaneous anthrax), digestive system (gastrointestinal anthrax) or in the lungs (inhalational anthrax).

Its symptoms on the skin start with itching, sore about seven days after being infected, blisters and progress to skin ulcer. For the digestive system and lungs, the symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhoea, bad stomach pain, cold, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, lack of energy and muscle aches.

And it could be transmitted to humans directly or indirectly from infected animals. People could contact it when handling products from infected animals like their hair and the eating of undercooked meat.

Meanwhile, anthrax is not known to spread from person to person.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also informed that in 2001 about half of the people with inhalational anthrax died.

Gbolahan Lawal, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, had also given warning against the outbreak of the disease in the state. He told livestock owners, farmers, butchers, livestock sellers and veterinarians to be at alert to any sign of charcoal anthrax in their livestock.

“It is essential that if livestock dies suddenly and without an obvious cause, livestock owners and veterinarians are enjoined to immediately report any suspected case of anthrax or unexplained sudden death of livestock to the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture or the nearest veterinary office or call 08023191180 or 08023427594,” he said.

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