Nigeria needs robust surveillance system to curb anthrax spread, expert tells FG

Sodiq Ojuroungbe

A Public Health Physician, Dr. Olaposi Olatoregun has urged the Federal Government to put in place a robust surveillance system to prevent the spread of anthrax disease, following its outbreak in Niger State.

He said the availability of such a system will help to detect and report on time suspected cases of anthrax.

The FG had on Monday, confirmed the first case of anthrax in Nigeria, stating that the disease was detected in a farm in Niger State.

A statement from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said animals showing signs of a possible case of anthrax on a farm in Suleja, Niger State, were reported to the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria on July 14, 2023.

The statement, signed by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Dr. Columba Vakuru, reads in part, “The case was in a multi-specie animal farm comprising of cattle, sheep and goats located at Gajiri, along Abuja-Kaduna expressway in Suleja Local Government Area, Niger State, where some of the animals had symptoms including oozing of blood from their body openings – anus, nose, eyes and ears.”

Speaking exclusively with PUNCH Healthwise, Dr. Olatoregun said the government needs to identify and isolate individuals suspected or confirmed to have anthrax to prevent further transmission.

The public health physician emphasized that there is a need for contact tracing and prophylactic treatment.

While advising the FG to embark on aggressive public education and awareness programme, he said prophylactic antibiotics should be administered to those at risk to prevent the development of anthrax.

He said, “Anthrax is a severe infectious disease. It can affect both humans and animals. In humans, anthrax can cause various forms of infection, including cutaneous (skin), gastrointestinal and inhalational anthrax. Inhalational anthrax is the most severe version.

“Anthrax is not directly transmitted from person to person, except in rare cases of respiratory anthrax. However, an outbreak indicates the presence of anthrax in the environment, which can potentially infect multiple individuals.

“Anthrax is primarily an animal disease that can spill to humans. Maintaining infection control, and cleanliness is one of the ways to prevent it.”

On the symptoms of anthrax, Dr. Olatoregun said people who experience fever, fatigue, cough, and muscle aches may be exposed to the disease.

He added, “For inhalations of anthrax, initial symptoms may resemble a common cold or flu. Symptoms typically appear within a week after exposure but can take up to 60 days.

“Early symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, and muscle aches. As the infection progresses, respiratory distress, chest discomfort, and severe breathing difficulties may occur.

“Shock and meningitis can develop in later stages. There are also gastrointestinal and cutaneous anthrax with gastrointestinal and skin symptoms.”


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