**Anthrax in Nigeria: An Imperative Alarm Bell or an Overreaction?**
Just when we thought 2023 would bring some semblance of respite, new clouds have begun gathering over our beloved Nigeria. A chilling specter has shown its face in the form of the deadly bacterial disease: Anthrax, with the Federal Government validating the country’s first reported case. But is this the beginning of an overwhelming storm or an isolated incident unlikely to increase in magnitude over time?
Following the detection of anthrax at a farm in Niger State, the Federal Government, on June 13, has urged Nigerians to refrain from consumption of ‘ponmo,’ a local delicacy prepared from hides. This measure is not to inject fear but to arm every Nigerian with the knowledge to fight against the possible spread of this disease.
Precursor to the alarm is the anthrax outbreaks in our neighboring countries within the West African region which created tumult and raised international concern. As such, Nigeria, being part of this region, could be at risk. However, this is not a predetermined ‘doomsday’ scenario that some would have us imagine. Neither is it a brush-off matter. Evidently, our path forward lies in understanding the issue and adopting defensive measures swiftly rather than reacting impulsively.
Anthrax, a lethal disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, affects both humans and animals. While its potential threats can’t be denied, it’s crucial to understand that the disease is not as contagious as some might presume. Merely being around a person infected with cutaneous (skin) anthrax isn’t enough to catch the illness.
Nevertheless, the livestock sector is where the highest attention is needed. Anthrax spores can survive in the soil for decades, thus posing a continuous risk to herbivores like cows and goats that can ingest them while grazing. What’s more alarming is that humans can contract anthrax through handling or ingesting products from infected animals, hence the temporary ban on ‘ponmo.’
What the nation needs at the moment is accurate information and clarity of action, not misinformation and panic. Nigeria will face the anthrax case as it has met many challenges in the past. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will our fight against anthrax be.
The Federal Government, alongside international health organizations, are on high alert and have initiated proactive measures to address this potential health crisis. Vaccination campaigns for at-risk livestock, thorough examination of ‘ponmo’ before its release to the market, and public health awareness are some of the frontline defenses being put in place at the moment.
Each individual likewise has a role in this. By adhering to government advisories, maintaining personal hygiene, informing authorities about any suspected cases around us, we collectively contribute towards mitigating an anthrax outbreak.
So, is Nigeria about to be hit like a ton of bricks with Anthrax? The answer, as it stands now, is no. However, the situation calls for caution, not panic. The anthrax case in Nigeria is a wake-up call for us to upgrade our animal health policies, practices, and infrastructure. It’s an opportunity to prove that we can rise above adversities, armed with knowledge and determination.
Let animosity fear not take over. We are ahead of the game. We are awake, vigilant, and proactive. Together, we will emerge stronger and more united than ever.
Your Favorite Health Expert