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Anthrax in Ghana: Everything You Need to Know

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What is Anthrax?

Anthrax is a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and affect both humans and animals. It has a long history and significant devastation on both animal and human health. Zoonosis is the term that refers to infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. In this article, I provide comprehensive information of anthrax, its recent outbreaks in districts of the Upper East Region of Ghana, its earliest recorded instances in history, as well as its global and regional impact.

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When was anthax discovered?

Anthrax has a recorded history dating back to ancient civilizations. The earliest known occurrence of was documented in ancient texts in regions of Mesopotamia and Egypt. In Africa sub-Saharan Africa, the first recorded instance of anthrax was reported in the early 20th century, with cases emerging in countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.

Epidemiology of Anthrax in Africa

Anthrax outbreaks have had significant global ramifications, resulting in numerous cases and deaths. Over the years, Africa has experienced several high-profile anthrax outbreaks, with Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya being heavily affected. In recent years, Zimbabwe witnessed a major outbreak in 2019, with over 1,000 suspected cases and substantial livestock losses. Zambia also reported outbreaks in various provinces in the same year, leading to hundreds of animal deaths. Kenya has faced recurrent anthrax outbreaks, particularly in regions like Nakuru and Machakos, impacting both animals and humans.

Occurence of Anthrax in Ghana

In Ghana, while anthrax cases are relatively fewer compared to some other African countries, the disease remains a concern. Isolated incidents have occurred in different locations, posing risks to both animal and human health. The recent outbreaks this June 2023 occurred in Talensi and Binduri, both in the Upper East Region. The ministry revealed that four cattle and twenty sheep have died since May 20, 2023. A Hundred people are estimated to have eaten meat of infected livestock, and 11 people have shown cutaneous lesions on their hands or faces. There is one death which is highly linked to this outbreak. Livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, act as reservoirs for anthrax, posing a risk to people who come into direct contact with them or their by products. The disease can be transmitted through various routes, including cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and inhalation routes.

Updates on Anthrax Outbreak in Ghana

As of June 8, 2023, 2,339 ruminant animals, including 1,068 cattle, 757 sheep, and 514 goats, have been vaccinated. There have been 30 recorded human anthrax cases, resulting in one fatality. Additionally, nine cattle, 24 sheep, and goats have died due to the outbreak. The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr. Stephen Yakubu encouraged livestock owners to avail their animals for free anthrax vaccination to combat the disease collectively. Additionally, The Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Dzotsi, emphasized the importance of consuming wholesome food and following directives to address the chilling anthrax situation in the most affected districts. Everyone’s contribution is crucial to ending the phenomenon.

How is Anthrax transmitted

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The disease is primarily caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. B. anthracis produce resilient spores capable of surviving in the environment for extended periods. Animals typically contract anthrax through ingestion or inhalation of spores while grazing on contaminated pastures or drinking contaminated water. Humans can become infected through direct contact with infected animals, consumption of contaminated meat, or exposure to contaminated animal products. Some of the modes of transmission are cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalation and physical contact. Cutaneous anthrax, the most common form, occurs when spores enter the body through cuts or abrasions on the skin. Gastrointestinal anthrax results from consuming contaminated meat, while inhalation anthrax occurs when spores are inhaled, usually through occupational exposure. While person-to-person transmission is rare, it is essential to exercise caution and follow preventive measures to minimize risks.

Treatment and Management of Anthrax

Prompt diagnosis and early treatment are crucial in managing anthrax cases. Antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin and doxycycline, are effective in treating anthrax infections. Severe cases may require hospitalization and supportive care. Livestock must be vaccinated, as this play a vital role in preventing outbreaks and reducing the risk of transmission to humans.

Economic Impacts

This outbreak have significant economic implications both locally and nationally. It affects agriculture, livestock production, and public health infrastructure. The loss of livestock due to anthrax-related deaths not only impacts farmers, but also disrupts trade and food security. The cost of implementing control measures, surveillance, and public health interventions further adds to the economic burden associated with anthrax.

What is Ghana doing about the recent anthrax outbreak

The Ghanaian government, in collaboration with veterinary services and health authorities, has taken proactive measures to combat the outbreak. These actions include surveillance programs to monitor and respond to outbreaks, public awareness campaigns to educate communities on preventive measures, and the establishment of veterinary units and laboratories equipped to diagnose and manage anthrax cases. Movement of animals in and out of the affected districts has been banned, and consumption of carcasses has been prohibited.

Cautions and Preventive Measures

To minimize the risk of anthrax, individuals should exercise caution when handling animal carcasses, ensure the consumption of meat from certified sources, and report any suspected cases to veterinary or health authorities. Proper disposal of animal remains, vaccination of livestock, and regular disinfection of farming equipment and facilities are essential preventive measures.

What you can do as an individual

As individuals, you can contribute to anthrax prevention and control efforts by staying informed about the disease, following recommended preventive measures, and promoting awareness within your community. You can do that by sharing this article. By adopting responsible practices, such as proper handling and disposal of animal products, supporting vaccination programs, and reporting any unusual animal deaths, you can help protect both animal and human health.

Anthrax continues to pose challenge globally, especially among developing nations. By understanding the causes, transmission routes, and implementing preventive measures, countries like Ghana can mitigate the impact of anthrax. Through collaborative efforts, public awareness campaigns, and adherence to preventive practices, we can work towards minimizing the economic burden and ensuring the well-being of both animals and humans.


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