The Nigeria Customs Service has directed its officials to take precautionary measure at land borders to prevent importation of “charcoal anthrax” diseases into the country.
The deputy comptroller –general (E, I&I) of the agency, V.D Dimka, gave this directive in a memo last week.
This was as against the backdrop of a reported outbreak of the disease in the neighbouring Niger Republic from where sheep and cattle are imported to Nigeria.
According to the directive, the custom headquarters received a report that the Nigerien Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock had notified the World Organisation for Animals Health (WOAH) of an outbreak of charcoal anthrax diseases, the Bacterium Bacillus Anthracis variant, in sheep and cattle in Niger.
“Given the supply of cattle and sheep from Niger to Nigeria, the Comptroller-General, Customs (CGC) has directed on the urgent need to place additional precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the disease into Nigeria through our land borders,” the memo read.
The disease was first reported in the Niger Republic on September 23 where over 100 cattle have been infected and 22 death recorded.
The infectious disease can survive in the soil for several years before being ingested by grazing animals.
It can also be transmitted to humans through direct or indirect contact with infected animals, through occupational exposure or contaminated animal products.
No case in Nigeria
But the Chief Veterinary officer of Nigeria, Olaniyan Alabi, told PREMIUM TIMES that there has been no case of charcoal anthrax diseases in the country.
Mr Alabi said the Nigerian customs had misrepresented the information in the circular to its officials.
He said the title of the circular, “Re: Outbreak of charcoal anthrax in sheep and cattle in Republic of Nigeria”, is misleading because there has been no case of the disease reported in the country.
Mr Alabi said charcoal anthrax, which is common in sheep and cattle, is a deadly disease and Nigerians would have been alerted if the disease was found in the country.
He, however, said his department in November advised all states in the country, especially those at the border areas, to be at alert and look out for the possibility of cases because of the report of the disease in Niger.
He said though no case has been reported in the country so far, officials in the agricultural agency are already on alert.
He said people can only detect if an animal is sick through testing, not just by looking at the animal.
“As such we have directed our officials to be on the lookout and take samples of animals which they suspect to be sick to the laboratories for proper diagnosis,” he said.
What is anthrax?
Anthrax is a bacterial infection. Those at high risk of contracting the disease are people who work with animals, animals products, travellers, and military personnel.
The disease can occur in four forms; skin, lungs, intestine and injection.
Symptoms include blister on the skin, fever, chest pains and breathless in lungs infection, while for intestine infection can cause diarrhoea, which might contain blood; nausea, vomiting and stomach ache.
The injection form presents with fever and abscess at the injection site.
The symptoms begin between day one of exposure to two months after the infection.