Don’t panic over anthrax outbreak, Enugu govt tells residents

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The Enugu Government has urged its residents not to panic as the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development is on alert and proactive to prevent anthrax outbreak in the state.

Dr Cosmas Omeh, State Epidemiologist and Disease Reporting Officer in the Ministry’s Veterinary Services Department, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Enugu.

NAN reports that Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium mainly affecting animals.

Human beings can become infected with anthrax through contact with an infected animal alive or dead as well as by inhaling spores.

The symptoms of anthrax can range from a skin ulcer with a dark scab to difficulty breathing. However, antibiotic treatment cures most infections. Inhaled anthrax is harder to treat and can be fatal.

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 the mandate to watch out for the clinical signs/ symptoms of anthrax daily,” he told NAN.

The state epidemiologist noted that the clinical signs/ symptoms of anthrax included: sudden death, bleeding from the orifices such as mouth, nose, ear and anus, rapid bloating, absence of rigor mortis, swelling from the face and neck of an animal.

He said that vet doctors are to report any irregularities immediately through the appropriate channel, knowing full well the implications of anthrax as a zoonotic and reportable disease in veterinary medicine.

“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 suspected or infected animal,” he said.

Omeh said that there should be appropriate disposal of potentially infected things; decontamination of affected premises and potentially infected items, equipment and facilities (stables/shed), using formalin, paracetic acid, formaldehyde under different concentration and time duration.

He said the state ministry for agriculture and rural development, veterinary services department are to embark on an anthrax programme of enlightenment through the media and visual awareness programmes using infographics.

A visit by NAN correspondent to some local markets within Enugu metropolis, revealed that most of the butchers said that they were aware of the anthrax scare but needed more information from the veterinary authorities on the matter.

Mr Jude Agu, a butcher in the Mayor Market, said that he needed more information on the disease.

”For now, I wear all my protective gear as I sell my meat and ensure I wash all items used in selling the meat daily”.

Another meat seller in Top-Land Market, Mr Obinna Anioke, said:”I usually advice my customers to properly wash their meat with salt and running water.

”I also tell them to ensure the meat is cooked very well so that any possible remnant of bacteria and virus can definitely die under intense cooking heat.”