The outbreak of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, in Kano State and its spread to Lagos and nine other states call for pragmatic action to contain the disease. Ogun, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe, Imo, Oyo and Jigawa States have been named among states that have recorded cases of the contagious poultry disease.
Giving an update on the flu on Wednesday, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, told a meeting of commissioners of agriculture from the 36 states of the federation that the total number of birds exposed to the disease had risen to 232,385. Out of this figure, about 51,444 mortalities had been recorded, with Kano State accounting for the highest exposure rate, put at 136,905 with 17,987 of the chickens dead. Lagos State had 38,845 birds exposed to the avian flu with 4,732 mortalities. Adesina also disclosed that the Federal Government has announced a compensation package of N145.14 million to all the 39 farmers in the affected 11 states where the de-population of the birds had been carried out by the government.
As the minister explained, the compensation is to ensure that the farmers do not lose their businesses as a result of the disease. Let the disbursement of the compensation be handled in a way that it gets to the farmers who actually suffered losses on account of the bird flu.
Earlier on, the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) had assured Nigerians that the outbreak of the viral disease was under control. The PAN President, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, affirmed that the emergency response to the disease has been tremendous, with the economic losses expected to be limited. Animal disease experts say the avian influenza (AI) is an infectious viral disease of birds. Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans, but some, such as A(H5NI) and A(H7N9) strains, have caused serious infections in human populations in some parts of the world.
Symptoms of avian influenza in birds include ruffled feathers, laying of eggs with soft shells, loss of appetite, depression and droopiness in birds, and a sudden drop in egg production. Cyanosis (purplish-blue colouring) of wattles and combs, as well as swelling of heads and eyelids, are other symptoms. Affected birds also have green, watery stools, blood-tinged discharges from nostrils, lack of coordination, including loss of ability to walk and stand, and respiratory distress, all resulting in sudden deaths and highly increased mortality rates.
We commend the federal and state governments’ efforts to contain the spread of the disease. It has, however, become necessary to further enlighten Nigerians about the deadly condition. The public, especially poultry farmers, need to be educated on its symptoms, preventive measures and where to access treatment should it affect their flock. Good enough, Osun State has enlightened its poultry farmers about the disease and the precautionary measures required to avert it. We urge all other states to emulate this good example.
The federal and state ministries of agriculture and rural development, as well as the health authorities, should collaborate to ensure that the viral disease is not transferred to humans. The bird disease should be handled in the same way that Nigeria rose up to the challenge of Ebola virus.
It is, indeed, better to nip a problem like this in the bud than to allow it to spread. We cannot afford to rely on the usual fire brigade approach to problems on this matter, as it will be ineffective. Government should also ensure availability of drugs for the treatment of the disease. We should not be caught napping if it spreads to the human population. Above all, it is important that all efforts are made to prevent the spread of the disease to other states.