The Federal Government has announced that a risk assessment conducted by the human health sector indicates a high likelihood of an anthrax disease outbreak in the country. In a joint press statement signed by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Columba Vakuru, and the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, it was revealed that the potential impact of the disease on humans is also significant.
The government has taken swift action in response to this concerning development. The incident management system has been activated at level two, and an incident manager has been appointed to ensure effective coordination of the response efforts.
The confirmation of a single case of anthrax disease in a mixed livestock farm in Niger State has raised alarm. This marks the first reported animal case in Nigeria since the West Africa outbreak began in Ghana in June 2023.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) stated that on July 13, 2023, sudden deaths of livestock were reported on the farm, with eight mortalities. The deceased animals were observed to be bleeding from external orifices without blood clotting.
Samples were collected on July 14, 2023, from multiple species on the farm and sent for testing at the National Veterinary Research Institute in VOM, Plateau State. The results confirmed the presence of anthrax.
The statement released by the FMARD and NCDC disclosed ongoing investigations to trace the source of the infection and identify any spread to other farms and humans. Although human exposure has been reported, no cases of symptoms or mortality have been recorded thus far.
The FMARD and NCDC are working closely with the Niger State Ministries of Health and Agriculture to identify, isolate, and monitor all individuals who may have been exposed. The NCDC has activated the incident management system at level two, with an assigned incident manager to ensure efficient coordination of the response. The risk assessment conducted by the human health sector has indicated a high likelihood of an outbreak and emphasized the potential impact on humans.
The FMARD was able to diagnose anthrax promptly and provide early intervention within 48 hours of receiving reports of suspected animal deaths. The Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with FMARD, NCDC, and other relevant stakeholders, has implemented measures to swiftly detect, control, and contain any outbreak of anthrax in the country.
Anthrax is a severe disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, which can affect both humans and animals, including livestock and wild animals. The bacteria exist as spores and can be found in soil, wool, or hair of infected animals. Anthrax spores are resistant and can survive in the environment for extended periods, posing challenges to disease control and eradication. The spores can be brought to the surface through wet weather, deep digging, or ingestion by livestock and wild animals during grazing.
Anthrax can affect humans through skin infection, gastrointestinal exposure, or inhalation. The government’s proactive response aims to mitigate the potential risks associated with an anthrax outbreak and safeguard the health and well-being of the Nigerian population.