Ram, Eid
physicians caution citizens against eating meat from sick animals

Eid Celebration: Physicians Caution Against Eating Meat From Sick Animals

Nigerians have been advised by physicians not to allow the economic hardship to drive them into consuming the meat of sick animals, warning that they may contain infectious diseases that may jeopardize their health.

They also said meat from sick animals should be avoided irrespective of how cheap they may be.

The experts further warned that meat from sick animals like ram, and cow could lead to disease spread including the transmission of zoonotic diseases such as beef tapeworm infections, bovine tuberculosis, and anthrax disease.

As Muslims across the world celebrate Id-el-Kabir today, some cattle sellers hinted to PUNCH Healthwise that some Nigerians are opting for sick animals due to the high cost of the sacrificial animal.

PUNCH had reported that buyers expressed deep worries over the scary prices of the different sizes of the rams put up for sale at the various markets.

Many of the highly disappointed ram market patrons lament that the exorbitant cost of these rams may deny them the opportunity to perform the Islamic spiritual obligation and also celebrate the festival with the ram.

Speaking exclusively with our correspondent at Kara market in the Berger area of Ogun State, the cattle sellers claimed that people who could not afford the exorbitant cost of the sacrificial animal are looking for alternatives, which include buying sick cattle at a cheaper price.

Public health experts, however, warned against such an act, urging consumers to be mindful of the pathogens present in meat from potentially diseased animals and exploring alternative protein sources if affordability is an issue.

The experts who spoke with PUNCH Healthwise stressed the importance of prioritising health over economic constraints.

A Consultant Public Health Physician at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara State, Professor Tanimola Akande, said sick cattle are potential sources of zoonotic infections, which are infections transmitted from animals to man.

Akande explained that in addition to viruses and bacteria infection, sick animals could transmit parasitic infections and toxins.

He stated that people with compromised immunity are more prone to most forms of infections, including infection from sick animals.

He added, “General people with compromised immunity are more prone to most forms of infections, including infection from sick cattle. Their immune system may not be strong enough to fight the germs and are therefore more likely to show symptoms and signs of infections transmitted from sick cattle.

“The chances of transmitting infection from sick cattle to man is very high when such meat is consumed and more so when not properly cooked.

“There are several types of infection that can be transmitted when sick animals are consumed. The viral infections include the Bovine viral diarrhoea virus, Rift Valley fever, and Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The bacterial infections include Bovine Tuberculosis, brucellosis, Salmonella, and E. Coli, among others.”

On how to identify sick cattle, the physician explained, “Sick cattle often look wasted, sluggish, may have swellings or lumps, hair loss, among others.”

He urged Nigerians to source animal protein from other sources like chicken, pork, fish, and eggs.

“There are some plant sources of protein like beans, walnuts, soya beans, locust beans, among several others,” he stated.

On his part, a Senior Registrar in the Department of Community Medicine and Primary Care at the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr Solomon Olorunfemi. warned that consuming meat from sick cattle can lead to severe health repercussions.

Olorunfemi stressed the urgency for consumers to be vigilant about the pathogens present in meat sourced from potentially diseased animals, such as Mycobacterium bovis and Bacillus anthracis.

“Consuming meat from sick cattle can result in several health risks due to the potential presence of harmful pathogenic organisms and toxins.

“Some of the key risks include beef tapeworm infection ( also known as Taeniasis ) which manifests as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.

“You can also suffer from Bovine Tuberculosis which manifests as fever, cough, weight loss, drenching night sweats, etc.

“Consuming sick meat can also cause anthrax disease which can affect the skin, respiratory system, alimentary tract, and brain and cause debilitating health problems in those places.

“Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted from animal to man. This could occur through different means such as consumption of contaminated animals, contact with the blood or body fluid of the infected animals, or bite by an infected animal.

“The chance of contracting a cattle-related zoonotic disease is very high when individuals consume sick cattle,” he stated.

On what people who could not afford cattle should do, the physician said, “My advice to those who cannot afford healthy cattle due to economic constraints is for them to count the cost and make the right choice.

“If you say because you are financially constrained and then buy sick cattle and consume when the consequences of that unfold, you may end up looking for the money you don’t have to take care of your health. So, let’s be careful.

“Beef is not the only source of protein. Alternatively, other protein sources such as fish, goat, chicken, etc. can be explored. It is better to go for other sources of protein that are healthy than to run after unhealthy cattle that will bring danger to our health. Remember, health is wealth.”