Nelly Bassily | August 4, 2008
Birds infected with a highly infectious strain of avian influenza have been found in two Nigerian poultry markets. On June 27, veterinary officials detected the virus in a chicken at a live bird market in Kebbi state, in northwestern Nigeria. On July 19, animal health workers found the virus in a duck at a live bird market in Gombe state in the east-central part of the country. Both cases involved the highly pathogenic bird flu virus known as H5N1.
Junaidu Maina is the agricultural director for the livestock department at Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture. He said that immediate action was taken to control the latest outbreak. According to Mr. Maina, all poultry at affected farms have been culled, and the farms have been disinfected.
Bird flu was first detected in Nigeria in early 2006. The disease spread through 25 of the country’s 36 states before it was contained. These were the first incidents of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the virus has been detected in several West African countries.
Earlier Nigerian outbreaks led experts to detail reasons why the disease can spread easily in this country. Dr. Joseph Domenech is chief veterinarian for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. He said the sheer number of poultry raised in Nigeria is a factor. Poultry are raised in high density. They are also part of everyday life for the majority of Nigerians.
The Africa Radio Drama Association’s research department analyzed the link between Nigerians’ love for chicken and the risk of avian flu. Chicken is a favourite meal – whether for weekday meals or holiday feasts. Live chickens are also part of the household, whether clucking around the table at mealtime or bunking down alongside children. This kind of human interaction with poultry goes against biosecruity guidelines recommended to decrease the spread of avian flu.
Basic hygiene can help stop the spread of the H5N1 virus. People should avoid unnecessary contact with poultry. Farmers should keep their poultry in fenced areas and wash their hands and boots after they visit the chicken coop. To prevent cross-contamination between farms, other poultry farmers should not visit the coop.
Farmers may have less control over other factors that encourage the spread of bird flu. These include the migration of wild birds and the cross-border trade in eggs and day-old chicks.
The H5N1 bird flu is a serious concern because it can be passed from birds to humans. To date, over 240 people around the world have died from the disease. One person in Nigeria is reported to have died from bird flu in the only case of bird flu death reported in sub-Saharan Africa.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on avian flu