Bird Flu: Rising To Protect The Poultry Sector

Chicken

As more states affected

AGAIN the Nigerian poultry industry is under threat from the incursion of Avian Influenza, also known as Bird Flu, which has the capability of infecting both birds and humans. All these point to apparent bio-security relaxation and breach, which has resulted in animal health challenges in some poultry farms. 

  At the last counted last week, a total of 139,505 birds have been associated with bird flu exposures in seven states of Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Plateau, Edo and Rivers with 22,173 or 15 per cent dead.

   According to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in a statement, 15 commercial farms and nine live Bird Markets have been affected in these states.  He was quick to point out that from hindsight, we are not in a state of any epidemic. 

  He revealed the most affected state as Kano, where the initial case of the bird flu was found. With a total of 103,445 birds reportedly exposed to the infection in Kano State, 15,963 have died as a result, leaving 15 per cent mortality like in the national overall. These cases were found in Gwale, Kumbotso, Tofa, Gaya and Ungogo local governments. 

  In the southwest, the heaviest poultry production belt of the federation, Ogun State, has in Sagamu reported two locations with one positive case at Ifo and another negative case, Sabo.

Of the 1,030 birds currently under watch in the two locations, 163 have experienced mortality.

   In Lagos State, the total number of birds under close watch is 31,195 and 3,347 are reported dead from the disease.

Adesina said, “The three confirmed cases were from Somolu and Eti Osa local governments. All the farms have been quarantined and decontaminated. Other locations in Ikorodu, Ojo and Lagos Mainland have already been quarantined, while awaiting confirmation.”

  Other states like Rivers, Delta, Edo and Plateau have figures ranging between 200 and 1,550 mortalities. 

 The initial case of the flu was reported and confirmed on a commercial farm and in a live bird market in Kano and Lagos States respectively on January 8, 2015.

  Adesina said although H5N was implicated in the outbreak, it has now been narrowed to type H5N1 virus after due analysis from certified reputable laboratories. According to the Minister, samples were forwarded to the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom and tested positive for H5 Strain of Avian Influenza virus. Now the result of the confirmatory samples sent to the International Reference Laboratory in Padova, Italy, for further characterisation has confirmed the serotype, ‘N1’.

  Stakeholders and poultry operators are already at alert as the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) officials have been hard pressed sending messages to its members on increasing bio-security activities and surveillance. 

  Dr. Stephen Adejoro, veterinary consultant said the Agriculture Minister is addressing the issue, expressing his readiness to contain the plague and emphasising that there should be no panic.

  However, Adejoro believes Nigeria’s experience on two different incursions of avian influenza is enough to put an end to this. 

“Bird flu is not new in Nigeria and all over the world. Some countries in Asia have occurrences on annual basis. The precaution that is on ground in Nigeria, in terms of bio-security in most farms and on the consciousness of Nigerian consumers, which we had before is enough to manage the flu.”

 He said there are many strains of avian influenza and not all of them are pathogenic or transferable to man. The ‘N’ serotype of it is of interest to PAN and the sector because some can trouble poultry, but not human beings. Even at that, stakeholders cannot fold their arms but improve on bio-security and also to create resistance in their stock of birds.

  He revealed there are ways to improve the resistance of the birds to the flu so they don’t easily come down with the disease, adding that precaution is on ground and thinks it would work because it has on previous occasions.

  Mr. Simeon Ohwofa, Managing Director, Nutrivitas Limited and poultry stakeholder based in Lagos said the Poultry Association of Nigeria is already sending information to all poultry famers to step up on their bio-security, adding that bird flu is just like any other poultry disease. 

  “It is a viral disease, comes very quickly but once the hygienic regimes are done, it can be properly tackled. Bio-security, basically is for anyone coming into a farm to go through the ‘foot dip’ and a spray for vehicles as they drive in.”

 He said it is no longer a big challenge like it was some seven or eight years ago, adding that farmers have learnt a lot. That the onus lies on the poultry farmer to take all the necessary measures so that the lives of the birds are not jeopardized is without question and he says the various ministries of Agriculture may be there, but farmers have to take charge, and PAN is doing just that.

  Aside the animal health side of the matter, he said it is also an economic issue because of investments in the various farms.

 On whether this would not entail a lot of cost to put in place the bio-safety, Ohwofa said it is expected of individual farms to have a standing bio-security plan as a regular arrangement except that sometimes the guard of some of these places may be lowered.  Therefore, there is need to step up on the safety needed in the poultry farms, and not be relaxed. 

  The Minister said though the matter is not an epidemic situation and should not create panic, yet all measures necessary are being taken to ensure that public safety is protected and the poultry industry is not significantly affected by spread of the bird flu.

  “I can assure you that Nigeria is managing the recent outbreak with strong determination, purposefulness and aggressiveness. I wish to assure that Nigeria will successfully control the bird flu outbreak. We have successfully controlled it in the past and have activated all the necessary protocols and measures to ensure successful control this time as well.”

  For now, the Minister has called for nation-wide comprehensive surveillance; quarantine, depopulation and decontamination of all affected poultry farms and areas have been directed.

  He urged stakeholders to cooperate with all the States and FCT in containing the disease because of its public health and economic importance. 

  Putting any disease under control requires shared responsibilities and 

unwavering cooperation of all stakeholders. Therefore, he asked for full cooperation of State governments in the following areas:

· Prompt reporting of disease outbreaks to the Chief Veterinary Officers

· Implementation of diseases containment measures in the state

· Ensuring the quarantine of infected areas and premises

· Depopulation and decontamination of infected farms and Live Bird Markets

· Advocacy and creation of awareness of the public on disease situations 

· Collection and transportation of samples to the central laboratory at National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI, Vom) for analysis

· Enforcement of restriction of movement of poultry and poultry products 

· Provision of logistics and essential equipment to the state veterinary services 

· Registration of poultry farms as provided by the ACT 10 of 1988

· Disease surveillance in the state. 

  He said poultry farmers are required to:

· Report all disease conditions to the Veterinary authorities 

· Patronise only registered Veterinary Doctors and qualified animal health service providers

· Enhance strict adherence to bio-security measures from the farm to the market 

· Ensure that marketers, transporters, visitors and service providers keep, observe and comply with bio-security measures at all times and register their farms in the office of the Director of Veterinary services in the State.

  The Minister has outlined measures taken and other precautionary steps to be adopted as follow: 

• Quarantine of infected premises and restriction of movement of poultry and poultry products into and out of areas around infected premises

• All State Directors of Veterinary Services and FCT, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) and other stakeholders have been informed and advised to be on alert with intensified bio-security measures to avert possible spread of the disease to other states

• The World Organisation For Animal Health (OIE) and Inter African Bureau For Animal Resource (AU-IBAR) and Development Partners have been appropriately notified in compliance with our statutory international obligations

• Immediate reactivation of all Animal Health component of the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) on bird flu for Nigeria 

• Conduct of surveillance activities around infected areas to determine the level of spread of the disease

• All stakeholders in the poultry industry are urged to enhance hygienic practices (bio-security measures) which include but not limited to regular disinfection, proper disposal of dead carcasses and poultry products and timely reporting of mortalities in poultry and other bird species to veterinary authorities.

  He urged the cooperation of all stakeholders and the public to tackle this outbreak, which it says the Ministry has previous management experience to contain.

Avian Influenza

  Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu, is caused by influenza virus hosted by birds, but some have been known to infect man.

 Immuno-studies have shown a strain of the H5N1-type of avian influenza virus that appeared in 1997 as the most likely source of flu like has already been confirmed by the Minister of Agriculture last week.

 Avian influenza virus spreads in the air and in manure and there is no evidence that the virus can survive in well-cooked meat.

How to Recognise Bird Flu

  It includes the following: ruffled feathers, soft-shelled eggs, depression and droopiness in the bird, sudden drop in egg production, loss of appetite, discoloration of the wattles and comb, edema and swelling of head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks.

Others are green diarrhea, blood-tinged discharge from nostrils, loss of ability to walk and stand, pin-point hemorrhages, respiratory distress and increased death losses in a flock.

Vaccination as tool

  Vaccination as a strategy for controlling bird flu in commercial birds remains a credible support to all the other bio-security measures in the farm as shown by research and practice.

According to poultrysite, a sector online source, outbreaks of avian influenza in the poultry industry cause devastating economic losses and is generally controlled through extensive culling of infected birds. But it emphasises the tool of vaccination as a supplementary control measure during outbreaks like the nation is facing presently.

It lists the advantages to include reducing susceptibility to infection, causing the birds to shed fewer viruses, which leads to decreased contamination of the environment and lower risk of human infection. It added that if used strategically, immunisation compliments a stamping out scheme by slowing/stopping the spread of the virus.



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