Some poultry farmers in seven states of the federation are counting their losses because of bird flu disease which has ravaged their businesses
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE outbreak of Avian Influenza, AI, popularly called bird flu, in Nigeria is threatening the consumption of poultry products and has affected the business of some poultry farmers. Since the outbreak started on January 2, in Kano State, it has so far spread to seven states of the federation with thousands of dead birds recorded already. The affected states are Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Rivers, Edo and Plateau states
The bird flu has killed 1,568 birds comprising 22-week-old layers, 10-week-old growers and four-week-old broilers 1,370 in Kano. Bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds. Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. But some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
Akinwumi Adesina, minister for agriculture and rural development, who confirmed the outbreak on Wednesday, January 21, said the development has not got to a crisis level and that his ministry was doing its best to control it effectively. He told journalists that the outbreak has “not hit epidemic level, and that there was no cause for alarm because although we know that bird flu could be transmitted to human beings, we have not had such problem. We are not in a state of any epidemic… To date, 21 commercial farms, nine live bird markets and private zoos have been affected in the seven states.”
He explained that as at January 21, a total of 140,390 birds had been infected by bird flu, with 22,573 or 16 percent mortality recorded. According to the minister, Kano is the most affected of the states where the index case was found. “In that state, 103,445 cases have been reported as exposed to the influenza, and 15,963 of them dead. The areas of the state involved are Gwale, Kumbotso, Tofa, Ungogo and Gaya local government areas.”
Adesina said that in the affected states, there had been quick and various levels of interventions, including depopulation, decontamination and quarantine currently ongoing. “Our ministry is spearheading a rapid response system in close collaboration with the state governments’ ministries of agriculture. At the moment, we have been able to contain the disease in Kano and Lagos states by the joint teams of the federal and states staff in these areas, the reported cases in Rivers and Delta states is being monitored.”
He also told Nigerians not to shy away from eating poultry products, as there are no infections in them. “Nigeria has the largest domestic poultry production in Africa with South Africa as second largest. So, the reason I made it a duty to address Nigerians on this is because if there is any effect on the sector through boycott informed by fear and the lack of information, that would not be a good development for the economy and agriculture. I want to clarify that the spread of avian influenza is essentially through contact between the birds and people that attend to them. Immediately the meat is cooked, the infection dies. So, let Nigerians feel free to eat chicken and eggs because there is no bird flu that is transmitted through such source, especially when Nigerians are known for cooking their meat very well before serving,” Adesina said.
Experts have allayed fears over safety of poultry meats and advised people on the need for correct hygiene practices and proper cooking of poultry meats to prevent disease spread. Alao Mobolaji, chairman, Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association, NVMA, Lagos State chapter, said it was safe to consume chicken and other poultry as long as it is properly handled and well cooked.
“I can assure you that we have been able to contain it since it was reported. The farm from where this broke out has been quarantined and they have destroyed the chickens in that particular farm. Basically, all the veterinary institutions within the state have stepped up to contain the disease and when I say stepped up, I mean proper security has been set up in all chicken markets in the state as much as possible. Our members have been put on alert and the farmers place on advisory alert as well to prevent the spread of the disease so that it does not escalate,” he said.
Mobolaji explained that the rate at which the disease had been emerging and re-emerging is something to talk about. He observed that the last time such case occurred was around 2006 and it took a while to contain it. “The alertness of Ebola has helped us to quickly attend to this one too as much as possible. This is also expected in the state of globalisation and urbanisation which is on the rise. Increasing the proximity of animal and human being is on the rise and need to be taken serious because human and animal are sharing quarters,” adding that people should not panic; people should consume chicken like they consume it normally.”
Gbolahan Lawal, Lagos State commissioner for agriculture and cooperative, had disclosed during the last Christmas and New Year festivities that the veterinary department of the Lagos State ministry of agriculture and cooperatives received a report of high mortalities of birds in poultry markets across the state. He said that bird samples collected by the department and sent to the National Veterinary Research Institute in Vom, Plateau State, were found positive for the H5 strain of the Avian Influenza popularly known as bird flu.
According to Lawal, samples collected from a poultry farm in Badore had also been confirmed positive and a Zoological park based in Victoria Garden City presently experiencing high mortality of wild birds in captivity is on the suspicion list and it is being investigated.
On his part, Jide Idris, commissioner for health in the state, had assured that there was no cause for alarm and advised Lagosians to embrace basic hygiene to prevent contracting or spread of the disease. He said people should endeavour to cook their meats properly before eating and report cases of mortality in birds in any area to the government.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential. Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A(H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and international trade. The body said majority of human cases of A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry as there is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.
The WHO said controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans. AI viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease. Some of these AI viruses have also been reported to cross the species barrier and cause disease or sub-clinical infections in humans and other mammals.