17 July 2023 | Abuja- Confirmation of Anthrax Outbreak in Nigeria
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has confirmed one case of Anthrax disease in a mixed livestock farm in Niger State. This is the first animal case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the West Africa outbreak in Ghana in June 2023. On 13th July 2023, the sudden deaths of livestock in this farm with eight (8) mortality was reported. In addition, the animals who died were observed to have been bleeding from external orifices without blood clotting.
Following this report, samples were collected on 14th July 2023 from multiple species in this livestock farm and transported to the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), VOM, Plateau State for testing and the results were positive for anthrax.
Further investigation is also ongoing to trace the source of the infection and to identify the spread to other farms and humans. Though human exposure has been reported, there are 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 (IMS) at level two (2) 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 an outbreak and its potential impact on 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.
● Appointment of an Incident Manager to coordinate the human health response.
● Contact tracing of persons and livestock exposed to the index cases.
● Development of an incident action plan (IAP) in the event of a confirmed case in humans.
● Prepositioning of medical countermeasures and consumables such as medications, personal protective equipment (PPEs) etc.
● Propositioning of laboratory consumables for diagnoses.
What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is a severe disease caused by the bacteria - Bacillus anthracis. It can affect both humans and animals, including wild animals and livestock such as cows, pigs, camels, sheep, goats, etc.
The bacteria, which exist as spores, can be found in the soil, wool, or hair of infected animals. Anthrax spores are resistant to extreme conditions and can survive in the soil or environment for decades, making controlling or eradicating the disease very difficult. The spores are brought to the surface by wet weather, by deep digging, or when eaten by livestock or wild animals when they graze.
Anthrax affects humans in three ways:
● Skin infection, i.e., direct contact with infected animals through wounds or cuts
● Gastrointestinal, i.e., through eating raw or undercooked meat of infected animals or their products including milk.
● Inhalation, i.e., breathing in the spores (the deadliest form of the disease)
Identification and investigation of all the exposed persons and animals/farms is ongoing, we urge members of the public to have a high index of suspicion and report if they observe any of the following symptoms in animals or persons around them:
● In animals, anthrax can cause symptoms such as high fever, weakness, loss of appetite, bleeding from all body openings (nose, mouth, ears, anus etc.), swelling and difficulty in breathing and bloody diarrhoea. It can lead to sudden death in most cases. The blood of an animal with anthrax DOES NOT CLOT on slaughter. Also, at slaughter, marked bloating and quick decay are observed.
● In humans, depending on the type (described above) and route of infection, anthrax can cause fever, painless skin sores with a black centre that appears after the blisters, general body weakness, and difficulty in breathing. It can also cause severe digestive illness that resembles food poisoning.
Persons at risk of contracting anthrax
● People who handle animals, i.e., veterinarians, veterinary laboratory workers, farmers, abattoir workers, butchers, cattle rearers, livestock producers and traders, wildlife handlers, hunters, park rangers, processors, importers, and exporters of hide and skin, animal health workers etc.
● People who consume animals (cattle, sheep, and goats) that were found dead
● Healthcare workers, diagnostic laboratory workers and caregivers who are exposed to patients or their biological specimens.
● Law enforcement officers (Police, Military, Immigration, Customs, Point of Entry Personnel etc.).
● Anyone travelling to a location with a confirmed anthrax case within and outside Nigeria.
Public Health Advisory
● 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.
● Carefully observe livestock to be slaughtered for consumption or sale for signs of ill health before slaughtering.
● Do not slaughter animals (cattle, sheep, and goats) at home, rather make use of abattoirs or slaughter slabs.
● Avoid contact with meat/bush meat or animal by-products such as skin, hides ("kpomo") and milk of a sick or dead animal.
● Do NOT SLAUGHTER sick animals. Slaughtering the sick animal can cause significant exposure with risk of inhalation of the bacteria by humans around at the time.
● Do NOT EAT products from sick or dead animals.
● Hunters SHOULD NOT pick sick or dead animals from the bush or forest to be sold for human consumption.
● Report any incidence of sudden death of animals to the nearest veterinary authorities or the State Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, report this to the State Ministry of Health authorities in case anthrax is confirmed and human contacts need to be managed.
● Anthrax is treatable when reported early. Call the NCDC on our toll-free line (6232) if you notice any of the signs and symptoms associated with anthrax for prompt treatment.
Health Advisory for Healthcare Workers
All animal health professionals/handlers and healthcare workers must maintain infection prevention and control precautions, a high index of suspicion/vigilance and notify the health authorities (both human and animal) when they see any human or animal with the above-stated symptoms.
Health Advisory for Livestock Owners
● Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure against anthrax in livestock. Consult with a veterinarian to develop a vaccination schedule suitable for your specific livestock.
● Use personal protective equipment (gloves, facemasks, goggles, boots) when handling sick animals.
● Do not slaughter sick animals. Slaughtering sick animals can expose the anthrax spores which humans can inhale which will cause severe manifestations of the disease.
● Regularly monitor livestock for any sign of sickness or unusual behaviour.
● Immediately report cases of animals bleeding from body openings to veterinary authorities, or agriculture extension workers. Note: The blood of an animal with anthrax DOES NOT CLOT.
● DO NOT PROCESS or MOVE THE DEAD or SICK ANIMAL, QUICKLY REPORT to your VETERINARY DOCTOR or VETERINARY AUTHORITIES at the Ministry of Agriculture in your state.
● Maintain good hygiene practices on the farm through regular cleaning and disinfection of animal housing, feeding equipment, and water troughs.
● Practice biosecurity measures, such as controlling access to the farm, restricting the movement of animals, and disinfecting vehicles and equipment entering and leaving the premises.
● Ensure a clean and safe water supply for livestock and avoid using water from stagnant sources.
● Sick animals should be isolated and strict quarantine measures implemented to prevent the spread of anthrax to other animals or humans.
● Report all human exposures to animals with anthrax so that preventive treatment can commence if indicated.
Early detection and reporting of suspected anthrax cases in animals or humans is important for implementing effective control measures. If you suspect that you or an animal may have been exposed to anthrax, quickly seek immediate medical care (for humans) or veterinary attention (for animals) or call the FMARD hotline at +234 811 097 2378 or the NCDC hotline at 6232. In the case where a healthcare worker sees a suspected case of anthrax, Call the NCDC 24/7 toll-free line IMMEDIATELY on 6232 or the emergency number of the state Ministry of Health (SMOH).
Citizens should only share information from verified sources like FMARD, The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), NCDC, WHO, etc. Remember sharing inaccurate information, especially on social media may have a deleterious impact on fellow citizens such as causing fear, panic ill health and even deaths. The Federal Government through the FMARD and FMOH and their units/agencies - the Department of Veterinary & Pest Control Services and the NCDC -will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria.
For further enquiries, contact:
Email: [email protected] | FMARD +234 811 097 2378 Twitter: @FDVPCSNigeria | Facebook: Department of Veterinary & Pest Control Services - FMARD
NCDC Toll-free Number: 6232 | SMS: 08099555577 | WhatsApp: 07087110839 Twitter: @NCDCGov | Facebook: @NCDCgov | Instagram: @NCDCgov | NCDC Media Releases
Dr Columba T. Vakuru
Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria,
Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Dr Ifedayo Adetifa
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention