West African countries share anthrax prevention efforts

Representatives from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Togo held a sub-regional meeting on the epidemiology of anthrax in the area last week in Lome, Togo.

The meeting included members from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anthrax affects both humans and animals. During the meeting, specialists offered suggestions that would allow national authorities to strengthen animal health care capabilities including vaccination of livestock, the proper disposal of deceased animals, and prevention surveillance.  

One of the challenges that officials discussed was the lack of veterinary services and a lack of local-level information relating to how anthrax can infect animals and people, and what risks it poses to public and livestock health. Other factors that exacerbate the risk of infections are the lack of awareness of the disease and the inadvertent slaughtering and selling of the meat from sick animals.

Anthrax presents itself in multiple forms and is dependent on how the bacteria comes in contact with the individual. Cutaneous forms develop blisters and bumps that can lead to sores and swelling in the area. Inhaled anthrax symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and body aches. If untreated, anthrax can cause severe illness and death.

Promedmail.org reports countries that attended this meeting have some of the highest number of domestic animals that are affected by anthrax. 

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