Prof. Simon Cadmus

Contaminated Animals Handling exposes humans to anthrax–Expert

Director, Centre for Control and Prevention of Zoonoses, University of Ibadan, Prof Simeon Cadmus, in this interview, ltells GRACE EDEMA that anthrax disease is not directly transmitted through ponmo and bush meat.

Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

Although anyone can contract anthrax, certain groups of people may be at higher risk of exposure or severe infection. The risk factors for contracting anthrax include certain occupations that pose a higher risk of exposure to anthrax spores.

These occupations include veterinarians, livestock handlers, farmers, and laboratory workers who handle or study Bacillus anthracis.

Anthrax is more commonly found in certain regions of the world, including parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. People living in or travelling to these areas may have an increased risk of exposure.

Anthrax is often associated with animals, especially herbivorous livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats. People who work with these animals or handle their products (such as wool, hides or meat) may be at a higher risk of exposure.

Can anthrax be used as a bioweapon?

This is not common; however, anthrax can be used as a bioweapon.

In the event of intentional release or bioterrorism, individuals in the affected area may be at risk of exposure.

It is important to note that anthrax is not typically spread from person to person, except in the case of cutaneous anthrax (which is the most common form) when the skin lesions are not properly cared for and there is direct contact with the infected wound. However, inhalation or ingestion of anthrax spores can occur from contaminated animal products or through intentional release.

What are the best preventive measures Nigerians should take to avoid contracting the disease?

To prevent contracting anthrax, Nigerians can take several preventive measures.

Here are some recommendations: Vaccination is an effective preventive measure against anthrax. Livestock owners and workers who are at high risk of exposure to anthrax should consider vaccinating their animals. Vaccination programs for livestock can help reduce the risk of anthrax transmission to humans.

By handling livestock and animal products safely; If you work with livestock or handle animal products, follow good hygiene practices which include wearing protective clothing, gloves, and masks when necessary, especially when dealing with sick or deceased animals; properly dispose off animal carcasses, and avoid contact with blood, tissues, or other potentially contaminated materials.

Very importantly, animals suspected of anthrax or their carcasses should never be buried openly, but buried deep down a pit with treatment with slake lime and should never be incinerated openly to avoid the spread of the spores.

It is important to avoid consumption of uninspected or undercooked meat. Consume only properly inspected and cooked meat products; avoid consuming meat from animals that have died unexpectedly or from unknown causes.

Cooking meat at temperatures sufficient to kill anthrax bacteria can help prevent infection. But once you suspect anthrax, don’t even go near the carcass, talkless of eating.

Awareness and education are another. There should be awareness about anthrax and its preventive measures among livestock owners, farmers, and veterinary professionals. Educate them about the signs of anthrax in animals, proper handling techniques, and the importance of reporting suspected cases to local veterinary authorities.

Environmental precautions should be adhered to. Anthrax spores can survive in the soil for long periods. Avoid disturbing or coming into contact with areas known to be contaminated with anthrax spores. If you live in or visit regions with a history of anthrax outbreaks, follow local guidance and precautions provided by health authorities.

Biosecurity measures should be implemented. Implement biosecurity measures on farms and in livestock facilities to prevent the introduction and spread of anthrax. This can include measures such as controlling access to animals, proper sanitation practices, and disinfection protocols.

There should be surveillance and reporting. Maintain active surveillance for anthrax cases in both animals and humans. Report suspected cases promptly to local veterinary and public health authorities to ensure appropriate measures are taken.

How relevant is the advice that people should avoid ponmo and bush meat?

The advice to avoid the consumption of ponmo (cowhide) and bush meat is not directly related to anthrax prevention. Anthrax is primarily associated with the handling and consumption of contaminated animal products, particularly meat from livestock infected with the bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

While the advice to avoid ponmo and bush meat consumption is relevant in terms of general food safety and minimising the risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases, it is not directly tied to anthrax prevention.

Regarding anthrax, the emphasis should be on proper handling, and avoiding eating such infected meat. Lastly, ensure meat consumed is sourced from reliable and inspected sources, especially livestock.

Source: The Punch