How disease ‘jumped’ from animals to Bauchi butchers

How disease ‘jumped’ from animals to Bauchi butchers

Butchers have constant contact with animals, as well as their products after slaughter. It is also widely known that there are some diseases which can be transmitted through various means, from animals to humans, sometimes even fatal. It was recently discovered that a number of butchers in Bauchi State are suffering from a contagious animal disease known as Brucellosis.

A Deputy Director, Veterinary Services in the State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Istifanus Irimiya, said that the discovery was made after a study conducted by Dr Philip Bobu-Igiwe, a student from the Center For Disease Control, Georgia was carried out.According to him, the study was coordinated under the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFETLP).

The NFETLP has centers at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; University of Ibadan and Nsukka where medical and veterinary doctors carried out research on how to cure animal diseases that affect humans. He added: “It was after the test was conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health, with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the blood samples of 284 butchers from three abattoirs. The Institute then donated 8,000 dosages of drugs to the patients found infected, and the drugs are distributed free of charge to the affected butchers.”

After carrying out laboratory analysis of samples taken from over 200 butchers from Bauchi, Misau and Katagum LGAs, 95 tested positive to the disease.

Dr Irimiya explained that Brucellosis is contagious, transmitted from animals like sheep, goats, etc., to humans. According to him, people that are constantly exposed to animals, particularly butchers, herdsmen and veterinary personnel and workers are at highest risk of being infected. “The  disease is transmitted through consumption of unpasteurized milk, contact with raw meat and blood of infected animals, as well as poor sanitation and hygiene. Symptoms include high fever, headache, sweating at night, and impaired speech, with miscarriages in the cases of women,” he said.

Chairman Bauchi Local Government Butchers Association, Alhaji Baba Uba Dan Jos, whose association’s members were diagnosed with Brucellosis and are presently receiving medication, told Daily Trust that prior to the diagnosis, the butchers were not even aware of the disease. “Most of the infected only complained of persistent body pain, fever and other symptoms that come and go despite treatment,” he said, adding that the study conducted has provided an opportunity for butchers to know the health hazards associated with their profession.

Dan Jos commended government for taking measures to safeguard butchers from the disease, blaming ignorance for its spread, especially in the northern part of the country where there is lack of proper awareness, or interaction between health inspectors, veterinary experts and butchers. He also praised the center for conducting the study and assisting the patients with medicine to cure the disease, and urged the patients to take their drugs and observe all the rules guiding their administration, as well as observing all precautionary measures against any infection.

One of the butchers diagnosed, and on medication, Uba Gado Mai Nana, said that before he was diagnosed, he kept on visiting the hospital for his constant fever. “I was diagnosed with this disease when veterinary officials came to our market and took the samples and we were told that we’re infected, and were given drugs to take for 41 days.”

“I’m getting better because the body pain and fever have significantly subsided. Initially, I was surprised when I was told that I was possibly infected through handling meat and other products of an infected animal. I was born into this trade, and I have been in it all my life, but I never knew that what affects an animal can affect me as well,” he said.

Another Butcher, Ibrahim Mauludi Mai Nama, who is also on medication for Brucellosis said that although he had been having fever and body aches, he only took pain relievers at home. “When the doctors came, they took my blood and I was later told that I have been infected with the disease,” he said, adding that he’s getting better.

Findings at Bauchi Main Abattoir by Daily Trust show the dangers butchers are exposed to regarding diseases like tuberculosis, anthrax and others because of the way they handle animals and their products. At the abattoir, our reporter observed that there were no health inspectors or veterinary personnel who examine animals before or after slaughter.

While the butchers are not using any protection like hand gloves, rubber boots or disinfectants, the animals are slaughtered and processed in an unhygienic way. The animals are slaughtered on bare floors and processed on the spot, while water is poured to wash the blood, faeces and other dirt into a small connected gutter which drains away slowly.

Caked blood could also be seen being scooped and put into large plastic containers for later disposal.

When our reporter visited the Bauchi outstation of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, a Principal Livestock Superintendent I, Alhassan Nasir Muhammad, said that Brucellosis is a contagious disease caused by bacteria. According to him, the disease is transmitted to humans mostly from infected milk or meat of an infected animal. He said that young animals also get the disease from the milk of infected mothers, while male animals get the disease from the females during mating, or transmit the disease to the females then.

Muhammad added that the symptoms in humans are similar to malaria, making it difficult to detect in hospitals. He explained that the disease has a long-lasting effect in humans as it causes permanent sterility in men, while it results in constant miscarriages in women. The veterinary expert warned that Brucellosis has high mortality and morbidity in both humans and animals in endemic situations.

According to Muhammad, there are many diseases that can easily be transmitted from animals to humans that are very dangerous and are hard to detect, until the cases are brought to veterinary laboratories for analysis. He said that diseases like tuberculosis, anthrax, rabies and others can be transmitted from animals to humans and are very dangerous. He said that at present, there are many animal milk samples in their laboratory that have tested positive to Brucellosis, which shows the danger posed to the public regarding the consumption of infected milk.

The Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Bala Lukshi, told Daily Trust that government is aware of the development and various measures are being put in place to address it. According to him, there are plans to expand the intervention to include tuberculosis and other contagious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. He added that various agencies, as well as development partners will put hands together in order to safeguard people.

Dr Lukshi informed that the 95 Butchers that have been diagnosed are being treated with World Health Organisation (WHO), Food And Agriculture (FAO) and Office Internationale Du Epizootic (OIE) approved combination drugs.