Saturday, January 1, 2011

Avian Flu : The Nigerian Experience

   Since the first reported case of bird flu in Nigeria in year 2006, the scourge had unleashed untold economic hardship on poultry farmers especially those in the infected states as poultry farming is second only to oil production in Nigeria. Initially, the compensation announced by the government for affected farmers has now appeared to get bogged down in red tape, as some farmers were never paid. The fear of loosing their birds that will never be paid for discouraged them from reporting the outbreak thereby contributing to the spread of this epidemic.

   Apart from farmers millions of Nigerians keep poultry in their backyards, making human-to-bird contact more common and surveillance more difficult as majority live below the poverty line and cannot afford luxury of rejecting sick or dead birds. It will be necessary to note that this virus spread to virtually all parts of an infected birds including blood, meat and bones. The viruses survive in contaminated raw poultry meat and therefore can be spread through the marketing and distribution of contaminated food products, such as fresh or frozen chickens (meat). 

  This is because the viability of the avian influenza virus is maintained at low temperatures, which can survive in faeces for at least thirty-five (35) days at 4oC and at least six (6) days at 37oC. H5N1 avian influenza virus has also been shown to survive on surfaces for several weeks at ambient temperatures. The trend has raised concern among professionals that Africa’s most populous nation is at risk of becoming a permanent host to this virus. With these indicators it is glaring that this virus poses a serious threat to human health and urgent attention is required by all and sundry in containing its further spread.

Impact Of Avian Flu On The Immediate Environment

The effect of bird flu in the country is felt by almost every Nigerian as more than four hundred and fifty thousand (450,000) infected chickens have been killed since it was first reported in February, 2006 and the federal government has lost fifty five million eight hundred and ninety-one thousand, seven hundred and twenty Naira(N55,891,720.00) to compensation. There is a kind of unavoidably phobia for consumption of poultry products by citizens causing poultry sales and prices to fall in the affected areas and beyond such as Lagos where there was confirmation of a 22-year old female death caused by this H5N1 avian flu virus. The following are the highlights of the impact of this outbreak on affected areas of the country: (i) Unemployment: - Many Nigerians working in these affected poultry farms all over the country lost their jobs following the culling and killing of the infected birds from their various farms.

(ii) Increase in Crime rate: - Idle mind they say is devil’s workshop, the rate of crime will definitely increase as the laid off employees of the avian flu infected farms may want to find a means of livelihood either legal or illegal. This constitutes increase in various unpopular acts such theft, armed robbery, smuggling, vandalization of pipelines even political thugs to mention a few.

(iii) Scarcity of Poultry Products: - Most Organisation that rely on poultry products for their operationability such as eateries, restaurants and others will be out of stock as all the required chickens needed to meet their demand have been killed due to the outbreak of avian flu in the area. This further reduces their sales and may also result in laying off some of their staff in order to remain in business.

(iv) Health Hazard: - Employees, owners and the immediate neighbours of infected farms or backyard poultries are also exposed to the danger of contacting bird flu, since all those reported to have died of the virus have one way or the other have contact with infected poultry. For instance, it was reported that labourers at Adiya Farms about 16 kilometres away from Sokoto metropolis where the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza was detected in January, 2007 were ignorantly not wearing any protective masks to dug a pit to bury the twenty-one thousand (21,000) infected chickens. This is against expert recommendation of a specially made mask to be worn by anybody that will have contact with any infected birds.

(v) Food Insecurity: - One of the Millennium Development Goals is food security but the outbreak of avian flu in Nigeria is a great threat to both local and global food security. Infected poultry products are nothing but food for the maggots rather than contributing to availability of save food for human consumption.

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