Re-emergence of Bird Flu in Nigeria: Precaution Highly Advised!

bird flu is in sight

In an official release dated 3rd February, 2021, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, through the Department of Veterinary and Pest Services of the Federal Ministry has announced the receipt of reports of confirmed cases of Bird Flu from the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom.

The outbreak was said to have occurred in two background poultry farms of multiple species (ostriches, geese, turkeys, layers and peacocks) in Kano, Kano State and further outbreaks have been subsequently confirmed in two commercial farms in the State and another in Jos, Plateau State, all in the space of a week – an indication of the rapid spread of the disease across States.

Bird Flu, better known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a highly contagious viral disease which can cause severe clinical signs and potentially high mortality rates among several species of birds. This strain of the disease has particularly attracted much attention and concern because of its degree of virulence not only in poultry but also in wild birds, as well as the ability to infect mammalian species, including humans.

Some of the clinical signs evident in birds affected with a HPAI are:

  • Quietness and extreme depression
  • Sudden drop in egg production, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less
  • Wattles and combs become swollen and congested
  • Edema of the face, head and neck
  • Coughing, sneezing and nervous signs nervous signs such as tremors of the head and neck, inability to stand, torticollis, and other unusual postures
  • Diarrhea, lacrimation, sinusitis
  • A few deaths may occur over several days, followed by rapid spread and a mortality rate that can approach 100% within 48 hours

The spread of the virus can be influenced by several factors including; globalization and international trade, marketing practices (live bird markets), farming practices and the presence of the viruses in wild birds – which are considered reservoirs for the virus. It can spread through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, especially feces or through contaminated feed, water, equipment and clothing.

Although avian influenza viruses are highly species-specific, transmissions to humans can occur when there is close contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments. The main route of human transmission is through ocular or respiratory routes. It is therefore advised that those working with, or in contact with poultry suspected of being infected, wear protective clothing including face masks, goggles (in addition to gloves, overalls and boots).

There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of cooked poultry or eggs could transmit the virus to humans. However, as a precautionary and regulatory measure, animals that have been culled as a result of measures to control an Avian Influenza outbreak should not be allowed to enter the human food and animal feed chain.

Since prevention is always safer than cure, the following measures can be implemented at the farm level to prevent outbreak:

  • Keep poultry away from areas frequented by wild fowl
  • Keep control over the access to poultry houses by people and equipment
  • Maintain sanitation of property, poultry houses and equipment
  • Avoid the introduction of birds of unknown disease status into flock
  • Dispose manure and dead poultry appropriately
  • Report illness and death of birds to appropriate quarters

Whenever HPAI viruses are detected, control of avian influenza virus infections of domestic poultry becomes reliant on biosecurity, surveillance, and depopulation. Thus, in a bid to avert the devastating consequences of a widespread HPAI outbreak in the country, the Ministry has identified the need to put in place proactive measures to curtail further spread of the disease and has made the following recommendations for implementation in all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT):

  1. Full activation of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) in the State
  2. Enforcement of movement control of poultry and poultry products from affected to non-affected States
  3. Sensitization of poultry farmers and other value chain operators on basic biosecurity/hygiene measures for prevention and control of the disease
  4. Separation of Live Bird Markets (LBMs) for poultry from LBMs for domestic fowls and other bird species such as ducks, captive wild water birds, etc
  5. Sustained and vigorous disinfection of Live Bird Markets in the States

Finally, a threat to animal and public health has risen and it calls for all concerned stakeholders to cooperate and collaborate, so as to put an end to the deadly disease. The red alert is on; we must rise to action now!

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  1. Dr. Bukur Tijani DVM tweet
  2. World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE)

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