Anthrax: Physician warns against consuming meat from sick, dead animals

As Nigeria battles anthrax disease, a Consultant Public Health Physician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, has advised people to avoid consuming meat from sick or dead animals.

The physician also urged Nigerians to be cautious of the meat they consume.

Dr. Akinyinka, who is also the Coordinator of the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, told PUNCH HealthWise during an interview that consuming the meat of an animal that died of a poisonous substance or anthrax disease is risky and could lead to death.

Anthrax according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is an infection caused by the spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus anthracis.

It is a zoonotic disease — It typically affects ruminants such as cows, sheep, and goats and is transmissible from contaminated animals to humans.

Humans can get infected if they handle or are involved in the slaughter of a sick animal, or are in contact with contaminated animal products.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had earlier confirmed cases of anthrax in some farm animals in Niger state.

Expert says vaccination should be accompanied by the inspection and testing of meat at abattoirs and of dairy products before they reach consumers

Dr. Akinyinka also says it is not advisable to eat meat from unknown sources or where the cause of death is unknown.

He said, “An animal may have a disease that makes it completely unfit for human consumption like anthrax disease.

“So, if such an animal dies and someone goes to pick up the meat and eat, such a person stands the risk of contracting that disease.

“Also, eating the meat of a dead animal is unhealthy because you are not even sure of what killed it.

“What if the animal ate something poisonous and died? If poison is in a dead animal and someone consumes the meat, the person will consume the poison as well.

“Poisons in dead animals can be transmitted to humans. So, people can still pick up poison from dead animals, though it depends on the type of poison.”

She noted that cooking may not be able to destroy poison in the meat of dead animals, adding, “So if you don’t know the source of the meat you are consuming, there could be a  problem.

“That means you don’t know if the animal was properly killed or the meat was gotten from a dead animal. This is dangerous.

“This is why people are warned against consuming fish that has taken in some metals. If people consume such fish and the metals enter into the body, it will cause serious harm.”

The physician noted that consuming meat from animals that had been dead for a while could cause diarrhoea.

“It is not advisable for people to eat the meat of animals that was just found dead.

“People should try and eat meat that has been certified fit for consumption and prepared in a hygienic condition,” she added.

The physician pointed out that people could also acquire tuberculosis by consuming the meat of infected animals.

Experts say cows and many other animals can harbour bovine tuberculosis, a disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis — a close relative of the bacteria that cause human tuberculosis.

Akinyinka urged people to always purchase meat from known and healthy sources.

Similarly, NCDC also warns against consuming the meat of sick animals as they may contain anthrax.

Speaking recently in an interview on Channels Television, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said, “What we are saying is do not eat sick animals at all. Sick animals contain anthrax or animals that have died of anthrax contain anthrax and consumption of any of that product. Anthrax is present on their skin, is present in their hair, is present in their meat.

“So, consumption of any of these products, even the people who work with hides and skin, who are not even working on a skin for consumption, are at the risk of anthrax if that skin came from a dead animal.

“So, at this point, we are just saying, look out for the meat that you buy.

“If you like bush meat, maybe this is a time to take a break from bush meat if you did not catch it yourself because what we don’t want is for people to pick up either animal that are near or have died freshly with a view of selling them for consumption”, Dr. Adetifa said.


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