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20 Chilling Revelations About the Deadly Anthrax Virus Sweeping Through Nigeria

In a significant development, the Federal Government has officially reported a case of Anthrax disease at a mixed livestock farm in Niger State. This marks the first animal case to be recorded in Nigeria since the West Africa outbreak began in Ghana back in June 2023.Authorities have launched a thorough investigation to identify the source of the infection and trace its potential spread to other farms and humans. Concurrently, a risk assessment conducted by the human health sector has revealed that the likelihood of an anthrax disease outbreak in the country is high, with potentially severe consequences for humans.Anthrax is a severe disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, which can affect both humans and animals, including livestock like cows, pigs, camels, sheep, and goats. The bacteria exist as spores, with soil, wool, or hair of infected animals acting as common carriers.Notably, anthrax spores exhibit remarkable resistance to extreme conditions, enabling them to survive in the soil or environment for decades. Controlling or eradicating the disease proves challenging due to this unique survival capability. Wet weather, deep digging, or ingestion by grazing livestock or wild animals can bring the spores to the surface.The symptoms of anthrax in animals include high fever, weakness, loss of appetite, bleeding from various body openings (such as the nose, mouth, ears, and anus), swelling, difficulty breathing, and bloody diarrhea, often leading to sudden death. Infected animals’ blood does not clot upon slaughter, and distinct bloating and rapid decay are observed.In humans, anthrax can manifest through skin infection (direct contact with infected animals through wounds or cuts), gastrointestinal issues (ingesting raw or undercooked meat or animal products, including milk), or inhalation (breathing in the spores). Symptoms may include fever, painless skin sores with a black center appearing after blisters, general body weakness, and difficulty breathing, with severe digestive illness resembling food poisoning.Certain individuals and professionals are at higher risk of contracting anthrax, including veterinarians, veterinary laboratory workers, farmers, abattoir workers, butchers, cattle rearers, livestock producers, traders, wildlife handlers, hunters, park rangers, processors, importers, exporters of hide and skin, and animal health workers. People who consume animals that were found dead, healthcare workers, diagnostic laboratory workers, caregivers exposed to patients or their biological specimens, law enforcement officers, and travelers to locations with confirmed anthrax cases within and outside Nigeria are also at risk.Vaccination remains the most effective preventive measure against anthrax in livestock. To minimize the risk, it is advised to ensure a clean and safe water supply for animals, practice biosecurity measures on farms, isolate sick animals, and implement strict quarantine measures.Moreover, individuals should exercise caution when purchasing livestock from Nigerian states bordering Benin, Chad, and Niger, as well as from Ghana and Togo via waterways. Home slaughtering of animals is discouraged, and contact with meat or animal by-products from sick or dead animals should be avoided.In the event of suspected exposure to anthrax, immediate medical care should be sought, or the relevant authorities can be contacted via the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s hotline at +234 811 097 2378 or the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline at 6232.Medical treatment for anthrax involves various options, including antibiotics and antitoxins. Serious cases may require hospitalization and aggressive treatment, such as continuous fluid drainage and mechanical ventilation to assist breathing.With these crucial details in mind, public awareness and a prompt response can play a vital role in preventing the spread and potential impact of anthrax in both animal and human populations. Authorities are working diligently to contain the situation, and vigilance among citizens remains crucial in curbing further outbreaks.


Ademola Adeyemi

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