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The Enugu State Government has encouraged residents to stay calm, noting that the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development is actively taking precautions to avert any anthrax outbreak in the state.
During an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu on Thursday, Dr. Cosmas Omeh, State Epidemiologist, and Disease Reporting Officer in the Ministry’s Veterinary Services Department, made a strong call for vigilance and preparedness.
According to NAN reports, Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium that primarily affects animals.
Anthrax can be transmitted to human beings through various means, including contact with an infected animal (whether alive or dead) and also by inhaling spores.
Anthrax symptoms vary and can manifest as a skin ulcer with a dark scab, or in more severe cases, individuals may experience difficulty breathing.
Fortunately, most infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics. However, inhaled anthrax poses greater challenges and can be fatal if not promptly addressed.
Omeh said: ‘Residents should not panic. The Veterinary Services Department is alert and proactive to protect the health of all by daily ensuring disease-free, fit and wholesome meat for human consumption in all markets.’
‘Area Veterinary Officers and Surveillance Officers at the Zonal and LGAs, have been mandated to watch out for the clinical signs/ symptoms of anthrax daily,’ he added.
As highlighted by the state epidemiologist, an acute awareness of the clinical signs and symptoms is vital in detecting anthrax cases, including sudden and inexplicable mortality, excessive bleeding from orifices like the mouth, nose, ear, and anus, rapid and pronounced bloating, the absence of rigour mortis, and noticeable facial and neck swelling seen in animals afflicted with the disease.
Read also: NCDC Urges Vigilance As Anthrax Spreads
Acknowledging the zoonotic nature and reporting obligations associated with anthrax in veterinary medicine, he emphasised that veterinarians must diligently report any irregularities they encounter through the designated channels, fully aware of the vital role their vigilance plays in curbing potential outbreaks.
‘Our veterinary officers and area vet officers are already sensitising the stakeholders in the animal business which includes animal handlers, butchers, livestock owners and merchants, on the dangers of concealing information or even coming in contact with affected animals.’
‘We have warned handlers of meat to wear protective materials and maintain optimal personal and business place hygiene as well as ensure that carcasses of animals which have died from or are suspected to have died from Anthrax, must not be opened.’
‘They should ensure immediate notification of suspected disease through competent authority (Veterinary Services staff or the nearest Veterinarian).’
‘Milk, meat, wool, hair, hides and skin from animals showing clinical signs should not be removed from the carcass but disposed of following standard operating procedures.’
‘They should seek medical advice if any of the following occur: if a person feels unwell following handling of suspected or infected carcass or animal; or exposure without appropriate personal protective equipment to a suspected or infected animal,’ he said.
Regarding potential infections, Omeh advocated for the appropriate disposal of related items. He also proposed decontaminating affected premises and various items, including equipment and facilities like stables/sheds, using formalin, peracetic acid, and formaldehyde with different concentrations and timeframes.
He mentioned that the state Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development and the veterinary services department is set to implement an anthrax enlightenment program. This project will rely on media channels and visual awareness campaigns, with a specific focus on utilizing infographics.
According to reports from local markets in the Enugu metropolis, most of the butchers were aware of the anthrax scare. However, they expressed a desire for more information from the veterinary authorities to better understand the situation.
Mr. Jude Agu, a butcher in Mayor Market mentioned that he felt the need to acquire more information on the disease to better understand it.