On July 17, 2023, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) officially confirmed the first anthrax case on a mixed livestock farm in Suleja, Niger state, since news of the outbreak in Ghana in June 2023.  

Suspicions first arose when the animals, a total of eight in number, started showing several symptoms of the disease, for instance, blood discharge from their eyes, anus, ears, and nose. A Rapid Response Team was sent to the farm to collect blood samples from the sick animals, and after several tests were run, it was concluded to be a case of anthrax. However, unfortunately, all the infected animals died. 

Currently, investigations are ongoing to trace the source and spread of the infection, but in the meantime, we will tell you everything you need to know about this disease. 

What is anthrax?

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis that can infect both humans and animals. This disease can be found worldwide except in Antarctica; however, unlike diphtheria, it isn’t contagious but spreads through spores. These spores are highly resistant and can survive in the soil or environment for decades making the control and eradication of the disease difficult. 

How do humans get Anthrax?

Anthrax infects people in three ways:

  • Skin: This typically happens through direct contact with infected animals or animal products like wool, bone, or hair. The infection occurs when the spores get into a cut or scratch on the person’s skin. 
  • Inhalation (lung): This is the deadliest form of the disease, and it’s usually a result of breathing in the bacterial spores.
  • Gastrointestinal: This type of infection results from eating infected, undercooked meat. 

What are the symptoms to look out for?

Anthrax symptoms generally appear after 1-7 days, but in some rare cases, it can take up to 42 days for skin infections and 60 days for lung (inhalation) infections. Some common symptoms of anthrax in humans include

For skin infections: 

  • Blisters or bumps that cause Itching
  • Sores on the face, hands, arm or neck that become covered by a black scab

For lung (inhalation) infections: 

  • Chest discomfort
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Nausea
  • Coughs and headaches

For gastrointestinal infections:

  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea or bloody diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Fainting

However, the people more at risk of contracting this disease are veterinarians, people who eat dead animals, healthcare workers, farmers, abattoir workers, cattle rearers, hunters, and importers of skin and hides.  

For animals, common symptoms are:

  • Staggering
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Death

What treatment is available for this disease?

Antibiotics can be used to treat this illness. Nonetheless, it’s always best to take preventive measures; as such, animals should be vaccinated against anthrax from the get-go. Other preventive steps that should be taken are:

  • Ensuring clean water supply for livestock
  • Do not kill sick animals if there’s a chance they might have been infected
  • Wear protective gear like hand gloves and facemasks when dealing with sick animals
  • Report cases of your animals bleeding from their eyes, ears, or other openings to the veterinary authorities. 

What has the government done so far?

In response, the government has quarantined the infected farm in Suleja, Niger state and deployed 50,000 doses of anthrax vaccine for the other animals. There are also plans for the state-wide vaccination of animals and the sensitization of farm owners on detecting anthrax symptoms and preventive measures. 

If you suspect cases of anthrax infection in animals or the people around you, you should immediately call the FMARD hotline at +234 811 097 2378 or the NCDC hotline at 6232. 



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