Anthrax vaccination begins in Techiman

Vaccination of cattle and sheep has begun in the Techiman Municipality and its environs to contain an outbreak of anthrax.

The exercise was initiated by the Brong Ahafo Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) after three animals, two cows and a sheep, were found dead in their pens on a farm between February 15 and 17, 2013. Laboratory tests conducted revealed that they had died from anthrax, a disease which can also kill human beings.

So far, about 1,000 cattle in the Techiman Municipality have been vaccinated against the disease while 800 cattle and 28 sheep in the Techiman North District have also been attended to, according to Dr Kenneth Gbeddy, the Brong Ahafo Regional Veterinary Officer.

A report presented to the sector Minister, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, during a working visit to the region, indicated that following the deaths of the infected animals,  the pen where they were kept was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and all the animals on the farm were vaccinated.

At a meeting attended by MOFA staff from the region in Sunyani, the regional veterinary officer said to contain the spread of the disease, some of the anthrax spore vaccine was also made available to district veterinary officers for the Techiman Municipality and the Techiman North District to enable them to vaccinate all susceptible animals within eight kilometres radius in their respective operational areas.

Dr Gbeddy further indicated that  thorough investigation established that there had previously been an outbreak of anthrax on the farm in the early 1980s and that the carcasses were buried not far from the present location of the farm, adding that annual anthrax vaccinations were subsequently carried on for a number of years until the situation stabilised. The exercise was then discontinued.

He said the site where the animals were buried had been encroached upon and houses constructed on it, a part of it has also been used as a farm.

‘‘It is suspected that fresh grass sprouting in this area probably brought up some of the anthrax spores, which were subsequently washed downhill by the rains to the area where the animals usually graze,’’ Dr Gbeddy feared.

He said their study again revealed that other animals such as cattle, sheep and goats from the surrounding areas sometimes broke through the weak fencing to graze within the farm precincts, and the possibility of some of those animals contaminating the place could also not be ruled out completely.

In their recommendation, the regional veterinary officer noted that since there was a resurgence of anthrax on the farm, the animals needed to be vaccinated annually for the next 20 years or more, even if there was no further outbreak.

He added that the immediate treatment of all in-contact animals with penicillin-based antibiotics was also recommended any time anthrax was confirmed on a farm while fencing at the area needed to be repaired and reinforced, with the gates closed, to prevent animals straying into the farm.

He advocated that the Veterinary Services Directorate needed to utilise the research findings of the farm to improve upon small ruminant production, especially on farms that fell within similar ecological zones, while contingency funds were made available to the directorate for such emergency activities, since the lack of funds harms the vaccination effort.