Zoonotic Disease
Pathogen which causes diseases

Raising Awareness on the Potential Outbreak of Anthrax Disease

By Lawal Dahiru Mamman

In the year 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health emergency, I was privileged to be part of a class taking a course on ‘Animal Health and Diseases’ at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, UDUS.

At the beginning of the pandemic, rumours were rife that the disease emanated from animals. We did not immediately dismiss the narrative because we had just learnt about zoonotic diseases (illness contacted by humans from animals), their preventive techniques and how deadly some of them can be.

Just over a week ago, precisely on June 13, 2023, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development alerted Nigerians to take precautions as Northern Ghana, bordering Burkina Faso and Togo, had recorded an outbreak of the Anthrax disease.

According to that statement, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States are most at risk due to their proximity to Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana, and needed to “intensify animal vaccinations”.

At this point, it dawned on me that Anthrax was one out of about twelve deadly bacterial disease, which we discussed in class about three years ago. The disease is zoonotic. Hence, if it is left untamed, threatens loss of humans and livestock. And perhaps, this is why relevant authorities thought it wise to inform the public.

The announcement came with a caution against the consumption of hides popularly known as ‘Ponmo’, smoked and bush meat as they pose serious risk. These are not the only route of transmission.

In Nigeria, a large percentage of the livestock are kept under pastoral and agropastorial system of production. This means that animals are not really secluded, they interact with humans directly or indirectly and not everyone who attends to animals wash themselves before mingling with others.

Read Also: Anthrax: Low Sensitisation Puts Nigeria At Risk Of Outbreak – Expert

The point is, while animals are primary, humans, contaminated soil and materials are secondary sources of zoonotic diseases. Anthrax manifest in several forms, including flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, muscle aches and if not diagnosed and treated early, can lead to pneumonia, severe lung problems, difficulty in breathing, shocks and death, inclusive.

To prevent zoonosis, there are about two ways. First is to prevent the disease from even entering your community or country by allowing immigration or purchase of only healthy animals. This can be achieved through proper quarantine, vaccination and isolation before release to the general animal population.

Secondly, environmental cleanliness, proper animal management, isolation of sick animals, drug therapy and regular veterinary visit in an unfortunate circumstances where the disease is already endemic, is the way to go.

Vaccination remains cost-effective in prevention and control of animals diseases. To this effect, National Veterinary Research Institute Vom, Plateau State, has the mandate of producing standard quality vaccines for the livestock industry in Nigeria.

Since the announcement, reports have it that Federal Government has resuscitated a Standing Committee on the control of Anthrax in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, relevant institutions and collaborators have been contacted with the aim of controlling the outbreak in addition to the sensitisation of state directors of veterinary services nationwide.

Sadly, on Thursday, June 22, 2023, a veterinarian and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, El-Mond Veterinary Services, Abuja, Dr. Monday Ojeamiren, mentioned in one of the national dalies that the “level of preparedness to prevent Anthrax disease spreading to Nigeria is not far from zero,” and poor awareness of the disease by Nigerians can lead to a momentous outbreak.

In the wake of Mr. Ojeamiran’s alarm bell, Nigerians must and should know that Anthrax is life-threatening and many scholars think it has existed since the time of Moses, and may have caused what was known as the fifth plague, during the 10 plagues of Egypt.

While we hope the situation is swiftly contained by the government and health authorities in the country, we, as citizens, must heed experts’ warnings about the disease. Prevention, as they say, is better than cure.

Lawal Dahiru Mamman writes from Abuja and can be reached via [email protected]