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Anthrax disease outbreak in West Africa

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By Mercy Kelani

Discontinuation of vaccination due to lack of fund support caused it.

As the outbreak of anthrax in Nigeria and Ghana keeps on, governments have been urged by scientists to make provision of funds for vaccination which will be used to counter a re-emergence of the disease in West Africa. Anthrax is known as a transmissible disease — from animals to humans — and is also known as a zoonotic disease. This disease is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Confirmed cases of this disease were discovered in Upper East region of northern Ghana in June this year, with an account of one person’s death and the death of dozens of animals.

Likewise, the disease was confirmed in July, in the north-central state of Niger, Nigeria. Philanthropists, well-meaning Nigerians, state and federal governments are implored to give donations for the availability of the vaccines. The head of veterinary epidemiology in Ghana, Fenteng Danso, announced that the discontinuation of vaccination was caused due to lack of fund support from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for five years in the northern regions, although, there was no case of anthrax over the past five years in the region until this year.

Continuation of vaccination for all animals is the only prevention.

Animals and livestock can get infected with the disease through the ingestion of spores that in contaminated water, plants or soil while humans get infected through contact with animal products or animals that have the spores. The effects of this disease on humans are dangerous, causing chronic illness resulting in skin sores or blisters; and on animals, there is high rate of mortality. Nevertheless, the primary prevention to this disease is the vaccination and treatment of livestock, but the functionality of this care is not active in countries that are experiencing the outbreak.

Danso stated his concerns on the re-emergence of this disease in some parts of the northern region in Ghana, where people experience little grass for ruminants, coupled with the long dry season. Danso added that, consequently, animals had to feed to soil level which exposes them to breath in bacterial spores that are living in the soil. He emphasized that the only prevention to this disease is the continuation of vaccination for all animals due to the endemic state of the disease.

NVRI to provide vaccination for 10 million animals.

According to the government of Ghana, the distribution of 100,000 vaccine doses, over 23,000 animals have been treated with the vaccine, most especially in the affected regions, and another 100,000 vaccines are in production. While in Nigeria, enough production of vaccines has been confirmed by the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) to prevent the national herd from getting infected. Also, the chief executive of the institute, Maryam Muhammad, affirmed that the organization’s mission is to provide vaccination for 10 million animals, providing “herd immunity” to cover all national herd in the country.

A veterinarian and member of the Anthrax Technical Working Group in Nigeria, Oladotun Fadipe, mentioned that the fund to purchase the vaccine might not be prioritized due to other healthcare issues such as meningitis, diphtheria and lassa fever. Therefore, philanthropists, state and federal governments are urged to make donations for the vaccine because the vaccines are not for free, but only available on sale. In addition, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which are under the One Health Quadripartite, affirmed that anthrax make up continuous economic, public health and social burden.

More funds to counter the spread of zoonotic diseases should be provided.

One Health Quadripartite stated that most times, resources and attention that are required to prevent this disease are not available. Since the outbreak, 50,000 vaccine doses were bought by the Nigerian government for Lagos and Niger States, due to the high rate of infected animals reported. The Director of the Centre for Control and Prevention of Zoonoses at the University of Ibadan (UI), Nigeria, Simeon Cadmus, said that more funds to counter the spread of zoonotic and anthrax diseases in Nigeria should be provided if the government prioritizes the healthcare of animals and humans.

Related Link

Africa CDC: Website

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