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What You Need to Know About Anthrax Outbreak in Nigeria

The federal ministry of agriculture and rural development confirmed anthrax infections in agricultural animals in Niger state on Monday.

This is Nigeria’s first confirmed case of anthrax since the outbreak in Northern Ghana.

How concerned should you be? Here are what you should know about anthrax disease.

What is anthrax disease?

Anthrax is a rare but dangerous infectious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacteria.

This bacteria naturally occurs in soil, but it resurfaces when the soil is disturbed by flooding, heavy rains, or deep digging.

Anthrax is often transmitted to domestic and wild animals through inhalation or ingestion of spores in contaminated soil, vegetation, or water.

Humans can become infected, though, through direct or indirect contact with ill animals.

Is anthrax of different types?

Yes, there are basically four types of anthrax. The types of anthrax reflect the different ways the bacteria enter the body.

They include;

  1. Cutaneous anthrax: This kind of anthrax arises when bacteria enter the body through a skin wound. This can occur when a person comes into contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products such as wool, skins, or hair. The most prevalent sites for cutaneous anthrax are the head, neck, forearms, and hands. It affects the skin and tissue surrounding the infected site. Cutaneous anthrax is the most prevalent type of anthrax infection and is also the least hazardous. Infection often appears 1 to 7 days following exposure.
  2. Inhalation anthrax: This type of anthrax is thought to be the most lethal. Infection normally manifests itself within a week of exposure, although it might take up to two months. Anthrax inhalation happens when a person breaths in an anthrax spore. Inhalation anthrax begins in the lymph nodes of the chest before spreading throughout the body, eventually causing severe breathing issues and shock.
  3. Gastrointestinal anthrax: This variety affects humans who consume raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal. Your esophagus, throat, stomach, and intestines are all affected by the bacteria. Infection often appears 1 to 7 days following exposure.
  4. Injection anthrax: This is a novel strain of anthrax. It happens when people inject tainted heroin into their bodies. The symptoms are identical to cutaneous anthrax, however injectable anthrax spreads more quickly throughout the body. It can also be more difficult to diagnose and cure.

What are the symptoms of anthrax disease?

Anthrax symptoms vary depending on the type.

Cutaneous anthrax

  • Raised bump on the skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Blisters
  • Skin ulcer (sore) with a black center

Inhalation anthrax

  • Cold symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Achy muscles
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Shaking
  • Chills
  • Vomiting

Gastrointestinal anthrax

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen neck and throat
  • Sore throat and difficulty in swallowing
  • Bloody diarrhea

Is anthrax disease contagious?

No, anthrax disease is not contagious. Anthrax is not contagious like chickenpox or the flu. You cannot catch anthrax from being around someone who is infected.

You can only get it by inhaling the spores, eating contaminated meat, or having the spores come in contact with your skin.

What are the treatments for anthrax disease?

Anthrax disease can be treated using;

  • Antibiotics
  • Antitoxins: To neutralize anthrax toxins in the body
  • Vaccine

How can anthrax disease be prevented?

The most effective way to prevent anthrax disease is by taking the anthrax vaccine.

Biothrax is the only approved anthrax vaccine by Food and Drug Administration. It is also said to be 92.5% effective.

You can prevent anthrax disease by also avoiding sick or dead animals.

Ensure food safety: Anthrax spores can be found in contaminated animal products. So purchase meat and animal products from reliable sources and ensure they are properly cooked before consumption.

People who work with animals like veterinarians and farmers should also take adequate preventive measures when handling infected animals.

How has Nigeria been managing anthrax?

The federal ministry of agriculture and rural development — in collaboration with the Niger state government — said it has taken proactive measures to ensure the outbreak is controlled and contained quickly in Nigeria.

“This include quarantine of the affected farm, deployment of anthrax spore vaccines to the affected and adjoining farms to vaccinate in-contact animals, educating the farm workers of the affected farms on symptoms, preventive measures and what to do when encounter with suspected case,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The federal ministry of agriculture and rural development hereby encourages all livestock owners to remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious illness or deaths in their animals and to avoid contact with sick or dead animals and their products, to exercise caution when buying animals — cows, camels, sheep, goats, and other livestock — from Nigerian states bordering Benin, Chad, and Niger, and from Ghana and Togo via waterways.”

The ministry also advised against the slaughtering of farm animals at home, and eating of sick animals.

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