FG Confirms Outbreak of First Anthrax Case in Nigeria

•Reels off control measures 

•NCDC moves to coordinate response

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and James Emejo in Abuja

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development yesterday confirmed the first outbreak an anthrax case in Niger State.

This was announced in a statement issued by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria (CVON), Dr. Columba Vakuru, who expressed concern over the development.

Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis and primarily affects animals including as cattle, sheep, and goats, but it can also be transmitted to humans.

The disease can occur in three main forms namely cutaneous anthrax, inhalational anthrax, and gastrointestinal anthrax.

The CVON stated that his office was notified of animals manifesting symptoms of suspected case of anthrax in a farm in Suleja, Niger State, adding that the case was in a multi-specie animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep and goats located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna express way, where some of the animals had symptoms including oozing of blood from their body openings – anus, nose, eyes and ears.

He said rapid response team from the federal and states government and a health professional team visited the farm to conduct preliminary investigations and collected 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 few weeks ago. All animals affected have died,” he said.

The federal government however, assured that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with the Niger State government have taken proactive measures to ensure the outbreak is controlled and quickly contained in the country.

The CVON added that some of the measures so far taken was to quarantine affected farm, deployment of anthrax spore vaccines to the affected and adjoining farms to vaccinate in-contact animals, educating the farm workers of the affected farms on symptoms, preventive measures and what to do when one encounters a suspected case, adding that plans were also underway to conduct nationwide vaccination of cattle, sheep and goats against the deadly disease.

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

It further urged Nigerians to exercise caution when buying animals – cows, camels, sheep, goats, and other livestock – from Nigerian states bordering Benin, Chad, and Niger, and from Ghana and Togo via waterways – and not to slaughter animals at home, but rather make use of abattoirs or slaughter slabs. 

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), yesterday, activated the incident management system (IMS) at level two with an incident manager appointed for effective coordination of the response.

A statement jointly signed last night by Chief Veterinary Officer of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vakuru and Director General of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, stated that contact tracing of persons and livestock exposed to the index cases has commence.

The statement said though human exposure had been reported, there were no reports so far of human symptoms or mortality.

“The FMARD and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) are currently working closely with the Niger State Ministries of Health and Agriculture to identify, isolate and follow up all exposed persons.

“The NCDC has activated the incident management system at level two today with an incident manager appointed for effective coordination of the response. The risk assessment conducted by the human health sector today remained high for the likelihood of outbreak and its potential impact among humans.

“The FMARD was able to diagnose anthrax and provide early intervention within 48 hours of notification of suspected animal deaths.

“The Government of Nigeria, through the FMARD and NCDC and other one-health stakeholders, have put measures in place to ensure any outbreak of Anthrax in Nigeria is quickly detected, controlled, and contained. These measures include; the establishment of the One-Health Anthrax Technical Working Group led by the

FMARD to coordinate the national response, activation of a National Incident Management System by both FMARD and NCDC”.

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