2006-02-10-Another 60,000 Fowls DieUnderstanding Avian Influenza
2006-02-10-Another 60,000 Fowls Die
A large-scale slaughtering is underway at the Sambawa Farms where thousands of chickens have reportedly died of bird flu as another 60,000 fowls yesterday died from the outbreak of the deadly disease.
A team of Nigerian experts is heading for the farm, owned by Sports Minister Saidu Balarabe Sambawa, in Kaduna State to carry out the killings.
Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello said all birds at any farm where suspicious deaths had occurred would be killed.
In a quick response to arrest the situation, the United States Government yesterday donated $25 million to support the Federal Government's fight against the dreaded bird flu disease.
In addition, US has offered technical assistance in a bid to contain the disease recently detected in Kaduna, Kano and Plateau States as well as the provision of 2000 protective suits to be used in the affected areas.
This was disclosed by the Deputy Chief of mission of the US Embassy in Abuja, Mr Thomas Furey when he paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Adamu Bello in Abuja.
Technical assistance, according to him, would be offered through the US Center for Disease Control in Kenya. The team in Kenya, he said was being deployed to Nigeria to work with WHO and also establish a testing laboratory for quick surveillance activities.
In his response, the minister thanked the US Government for its show of concern and willingness to offer assistance while assuring that the Federal Government was doing all in its power to arrest the situation.
International experts were reported yesterday to be heading for Kaduna, as well as Kano and Jos where the other deaths took place as government officials are investigating whether the deaths of thousands of chickens in the two neighbouring states were also caused by the bird flu.
Chickens started dying in the area four weeks ago, raising fears that bird flu could have spread across Nigeria - and to neighbouring countries - before it was confirmed on Wednesday.
Quarantines and other restrictions are only now being imposed on farms near where the chickens have died.
Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organisation (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread".
"If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped."
He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading.
Sambawa reportedly told the BBC's Adamu Yusuf that he suspected the outbreak was down to "sabotage", possibly by disgruntled former workers at the farm, which used to have 40,000 chickens.
The sports minister was said to have spoken by telephone from the African Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he saw Nigeria lose in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
The agriculture minister has suggested illegal poultry imports may be behind the outbreak.
The disease may also have been spread by migrating birds according to reports.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed its readiness to respond to requests from Nigeria for support but warned against slaughtering, defeathering, butchering, and preparation for consumption of diseased poultry.
In a statement yesterday from the regional office in Brazzaville, Congo, WHO said it is ready "to respond to requests from Nigeria for support, including assessment teams and the provision of essential supplies and equipment". It added that infectious disease staff at WHO's regional office in Harare, Zimbabwe held an emergency meeting yesterday to assess the situation, plan a response, and evaluate the possible risk to other African countries.
WHO added that a team of experts experienced in the investigation of outbreaks has been placed on standby noting that the country lies along a flight route for birds migrating from central Asia.
"Although all evidence to date indicates that the virus does not spread easily from birds to humans, careful monitoring of the situation is warranted.
Experience in several other countries has shown how quickly the H5N1 virus can spread and become firmly established in poultry. The ability of this virus to cause rare but severe disease in humans is well documented." WHO added.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State governor, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, has raised a response committee to carry out further investigatons into the outbreak of the bird flu virus at Sambawa Farms, as consumers of poultry products continue to patronise poultry markets in the metropolis.
Inuagurating the committee at the Government House yesterday, Makarfi directed that all commercial poultry farms and their staff should be tested for the virus while asking all medical centres to be on the alert and watch out for patients who may have symptoms of the disease.
Makarfi who noted that the bird flu issue is not as alarming as people think also noted that the Sambawa Farms bird virus was actually detected in January 2006 following which the place was quarantined while specimens were taken for laboratory analysis results of which were confirmed last weekend.
But Secretary of the Kano state branch of Poultry Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Auwalu Haruna, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Kano that more chickens were likely to die.
He, therefore, appealed to both federal and state governments to take a decisive action to arrest the situation.The state Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Salihu Jibrin, said samples from the infected birds had been sent to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, near Jos, for analysis.
In a related development, desperate chicken farmers are slaughtering their birds and selling them to the public at give-away prices to reduce their losses.
NAN reports yesterday said hawkers have taken to the major streets in the metropolis selling chickens at N150 each. However, most residents are refusing to buy.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has however advised Nigerians not to panic about the recent outbreak, saying that relevant emergency management agencies are already handling the situation.
A statement by NEMA's Information Officer Mr Ibrahim Farinloye said the risk from bird flu "is generally low to most people because the viruses infect only those in close contact with the infected birds, as such there is no single case of human infections reported in the country so far."
The statement, however, advised Nigerians to look out for flu-like symptoms in human ranging from fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches to eye infections, pneumonia, and severe respiratory diseases.
NEMA added that eating well cooked poultry meat has never been reported to pose any danger to humans and as such there is no cause for alarm.
"Studies have suggested that the spread of avian influeza viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely ,and transmission has not been observed to continue beyond the infected person," the statement added.