Nigerian Anthrax Outbreak: Things You Need to Know


The Federal Government on Monday, July 17, 2023 announced the outbreak of Anthrax in the country.

This news comes a few weeks after the FG warned against the consumption of leather (ponmo) as well as smoked and bush meats.

This was contained in a statement with the subject line ‘CONFIRMATION OF THE FIRST CASE OF FUEL IN NIGERIA’, signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe.

Umakhihe confirming the first case said that it was detected in Niger, near the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on a farm and confirmed on Sunday, July 16, 2023 by the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI)-Vom, state of plateau.

On July 13, 2023, the sudden death of cattle was reported on this farm with eight (8) deaths. In addition, it was observed that the animals that died bleed from external orifices without coagulating the blood.

Following this report, on July 14, 2023, multiple species samples were collected from this cattle farm and transported to the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), VOM, Plateau State for testing and found positive for anthrax.

Definition of anthrax

Anthrax is a fatal disease caused primarily by exposure to the spores of bacteria from bacillus anthracis which infects humans and animals, including cows, pigs, camels, sheep, goats, etc. The bacterium, which exists as spores, can be found in the soil, wool, or hair of infected animals.

Anthrax spores are resistant to extreme conditions and can survive in soil or the environment for decades, making the disease very difficult to control or eradicate. Anthrax spores are not only easily found in nature, but can also be produced in a laboratory. The spores can become dusts, aerosols, or dissolve in water or food, and may be impossible to detect by smell or taste.

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Anthrax is not contagious, which reduces the risk of large-scale outbreaks.

Anthrax has been used as a weapon around the world for nearly a century and was used in both world wars.

Transmission Mode

Anthrax affects humans in three ways:

  • Skin infection, i.e. direct contact with infected animals through wounds or cuts
  • Gastrointestinal, that is, by eating raw or undercooked meat of infected animals or their products, including milk.
  • Inhalation, that is, breathing in the spores (the deadliest form of the disease)


In humans, depending on the type (described above) and the route of infection, anthrax can cause fever, painless skin sores with a black center that appears after the blisters, general weakness of the body, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause a serious digestive illness that resembles food poisoning.

Anthrax symptoms usually appear within seven days of exposure and vary depending on the mode of transmission.

Precautionary measures

  • Be careful when buying animals (cows, camels, sheep, goats, and other animals) from the Nigerian states that border Benin, Chad, and Niger, and from Ghana and Togo via waterways.
  • Carefully observe cattle to be slaughtered for consumption or sale for signs of poor health prior to slaughter.
  • Do not slaughter animals (cattle, sheep and goats) at home, but use slaughterhouses or slaughter slabs.
  • Avoid contact with meat/game meat or animal by-products such as skin, skins (“kpomo”), and milk from a sick or dead animal.
  • DO NOT SLAUGHTER sick animals. Slaughtering of the sick animal may cause significant exposure with the risk of inhalation of the bacteria by humans at that time.
  • DO NOT EAT products of sick or dead animals.
  • Hunters MUST NOT collect sick or dead animals from the bush or forest to sell for human consumption.
  • Report any incidence of sudden death of animals to the nearest veterinary authorities or to the State Ministry of Agriculture. Also, report this to the State Ministry of Health authorities in case anthrax is confirmed and human contacts need to be controlled.
  • Anthrax is treatable when reported early. Call NCDC toll free (6232) if you notice any of the signs and symptoms associated with anthrax for immediate treatment.
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The main treatment for anthrax is antibiotic therapy, such as ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, or penicillin, when taken early.

People exposed to anthrax may receive antibiotics as a prophylactic treatment to decrease the chance of infection.

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Nigerian Anthrax Outbreak: Things You Need to Know

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