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Nigeria agricultural officials report a confirmed anthrax outbreak on a farm in Suleja Local Government Area (LGA) in Niger state.

Image/Robert Herriman

According to a statement from Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr Ernest Umakhihe:

“Last week our disease surveillance team reported a suspicion of anthrax in a multi-species animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep, goats and poultry located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna express way Suleja LGA Niger state.

“A Rapid Response Team comprising of Federal and state One-Health professionals visited the farm and conducted detailed disease outbreak investigation.


“On the 16th of July 2023, the Ministry received a report of confirmation of anthrax in Niger state, from the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI)-Vom, Plateau state, making it the first recorded case of anthrax in Nigeria in recent years.

“The Federal Government, through the Ministry and in collaboration with the Niger state government has taken proactive measures to timely control and contain the disease. Such measures include: Quarantine of the affected farm; Deployment of 50,000 doses of anthrax vaccines for ring vaccination of susceptible animals’ species around the infected farm; Educating the farm workers using One-health approach on the symptoms, preventive measures and what to do when they notice any sign of the disease.”

This comes just weeks after the FMARD issued a public health advisory following an anthrax outbreak in Northern Ghana.

The Ministry warned livestock owners to remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicion of illness or deaths on their farms.

“Also, the Ministry hereby urges all livestock owners to: Remain very vigilant and promptly report any suspicion of illness or deaths on their farms; Avoid contact with sick or dead animals and their products.

“Avoid slaughtering of sick animals; Slaughtering of sick animals can expose people to anthrax spores; Avoid contact with wild animals and products such as ‘bush’ meat.

“Report any incidence of sudden death of animals to the nearest veterinary authorities; Use personal protective equipment (gloves, facemasks, goggles, boots) when handling sick animals or dead animals.

“Practice good biosecurity measures; Dispose all cases of animals in an environmentally friendly manner and in consultation with veterinarians, environmental and public health officers.

“Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure against anthrax in livestock, consult with a veterinarian.”

Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Ruminants such as bison, cattle, sheep and goats are highly susceptible, and horses can also be infected.

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Anthrax is a very serious disease of livestock because it can potentially cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a very short time. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.

When conditions become favorable, the spores germinate into colonies of bacteria. An example would be a grazing cow ingests spores that in the cow, germinate, grow spread and eventually kill the animal. Anthrax is caused by the bacteriumBacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for decades because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc. This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.

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There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.

There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation.

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