Nigeria brace up against charcoal anthrax epidemic in Niger Republic

Report by Dr Samuel Akpan

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The Federal Government of Nigeria, in the wake of reports of outbreak of charcoal anthrax, an infectious and zoonotic disease of small and large ruminants, in the neighbouring country of Niger Republic, has taken prudent steps to ensure strict surveillance and further tightening of the 1,500 km long Nigeria-Niger border, to prevent entry of animals from the affected region, and forestall re-introduction of the pathogen into Nigeria.

Assumed to have been eradicated in Nigeria (no new cases reported as at 2009, according to an AU-IBAR report), however anthrax is regarded a neglected tropical zoonoses (NTZ) which has remained a recurring problem in countries in West Africa, and calls for more concerted regional collaborative efforts towards its eradication.

In a statement addressed to all the Custom Area Controllers dated 12th Dec. 2019 and signed by Dimka V.D., Comptroller (Enforcement) of the Nigerian Customs Service, all customs personnel on land borders between Nigeria and Niger have been placed on alert to ensure adequate precautionary measures to ward off trans-human movement of suspected animals.

The Lagos State Government, aware of its status as the largest recipient and consumer of livestock entering into the country due her large population, has gone steps ahead in public enlightenment. The Lagos State commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, in a meeting held with Sheep and Goat Farmers Association in Lagos State recently, alerted stakeholders and farmers on the disease, urging the general public to report cases of unusual deaths in livestock, so appropriate authorities can take necessary investigation in a timely manner. He went further to call out emergency phone numbers of the State Veterinary Department (08023427594; 08023191180), through which any suspected cases should be promptly reported. In the same vein, a multidisciplinary Rapid Response Team (RRT) has been constituted in the state, specifically to curtail any charcoal anthrax outbreaks.

Charcoal anthrax, a transboundary animal disease (TAD) is number one on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) list of notifiable diseases for year 2019. It is caused by Baccilus anthracis, a spore forming bacteria capable of surviving long periods in soils, and wide transmission via inhalation of spores/droplets in the air, or in the soil during grazing activities. Spread is further escalated by trans-border movements and international trade in animals between neighboring countries.

It is a serious zoonotic disease that causes ulcer with dark centre on the skin of affected people, hence the name ‘charcoal’.  

In cases of outbreaks, the disease has the potential to cause food insufficiency due to death of animals, marked economic losses due to decline in international trade of animals and animal products, diminished livelihoods, and public health risks. LIVESTONEWS.



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