Public health experts call for surveillance, vaccination of animals against anthrax

Chijioke Iremeka

Public Health experts have called on the federal and state government to increase disease surveillance and control mechanism to ensure that the first anthrax case confirmed in Niger State does not spread to other parts of the country.

They also urged the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to isolate and vaccinate all the animals in Niger State as a way part of measures to ensure that no more case is recorded.

According to a Public Health expert at the Holy Family Hospital, Dr. Euphemia Okonkwo, there is a need for the Federal Government, Niger State government and NCDC to procure anthrax spore vaccines for immediate vaccination of all animals within the point of outbreak and environs.

He said “Governments at all levels have to procure the vaccine against the disease first because a number of things are lacking in this country. We need to vaccinate all those animals and ensure that people don’t eat affected animals or any other animal from the farm pending the containment of the disease.

“It is important to note that people shouldn’t get in contact with those animals that seemed healthy except trained veterinary experts who know what to do to certify them okay. It is also advised that veterinary doctors should certify any animal meant to be killed for public fit for consumption before they are killed.

“I believe that this will not be an issue because anthrax is not a disease that spreads rapidly. I am sure that before anthrax would get to the point of affecting humans, it would have been destroyed. But there is also the need not to leave any stone unturned.

“Communities around should also avoid taking water from the river where these animals drink from, especially non-flowing waters. Their route should also be avoided until the needful has been done.”

Also speaking, another Public Health expert at the Iyi-Enu Mission Hospital, Ogidi, Anambra State, Dr. Christian Ekpunobi, said he is optimistic that the NCDC would contain anthrax disease the way it did with the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that anthrax is not an air-borne disease that can spread like a wildfire.

He said, “Fumigation of the outbreak point is essential to ensure none of the spores of the bacteria Bacillus anthracis that cause anthrax, which may have dropped on the ground, infects any other animal or human.”

According to him, anthrax is caused by exposure to the spores of the bacteria that become entrenched in the host body and produce lethal poisons, which is primarily a disease of grazing animals.

“I urged the stakeholders involved to ensure prompt intervention regarding any suspected case and pay more attention to the grazing animals in the farm or herd. They should also create communication channels to ensure that there is a flow of information between the herders and the government team in case of any emergency,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Senate had earlier called on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently embark on a nationwide vaccination of livestock with the anthrax spore vaccine.

The Senate made the resolution after a motion titled, ‘Call to address the low level of awareness and preparedness to prevent the outbreak of anthrax in Nigeria,’ sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis, representing Imo East, was adopted.

However, the Federal Government through FMARD in collaboration with the Niger State Government said it had taken proactive measures to ensure the outbreak was controlled and contained quickly in Nigeria.

“This includes quarantine of the affected farm, deployment of anthrax spore vaccines to the affected and adjoining farms to vaccinate in-contact animals, and educating workers of the affected farms on symptoms, preventive measures and what to do when they encounter suspected cases.

“Plans are also underway to conduct nationwide vaccination of cattle, sheep and goats against anthrax. Surveillance of anthrax will be heightened in livestock farms, markets and abattoirs. Public awareness campaigns on anthrax will be intensified,” FMARD stated.


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