Sunday, January 2, 2011

An Overview of Avian Influenza in Nigeria

Avian influenza virus started affecting domestic and wild birds and humans in South-East Asia in mid-2003 and has now spread to Africa and Europe. It is the largest and most severe outbreaks on record. Previously, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and wild bird were rare but since December 2003, some forty- five (45) countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Middle East have reported outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry and or birds.

This highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus has developed into a concern for human health in two major areas. First, the virus has caused very severe disease in people since December 1997, with more than two hundred (200) human cases and a fifty-five percent (55%) mortality rate. The second, and a far greater concern for human health is the risk that the virus if given enough opportunity; will develop the characteristics needed to start an influenza pandemic.

The recent confirmation of the death of a twenty-two (22) year old woman in Lagos through the contraction of the avian influenza virus, commonly called “bird flu” signifies the presence of serious threat to human health and this cause for concern in Nigeria. The epidemic was first reported in Sambawa Farms in the Northern state of Kaduna in February 2006 and since then, several of such cases had also been reported in at least Seventeen (17) states, which include Anambra, Bauchi, Borno, Edo, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Federal Government took drastic measures to reduce or even eliminate the further spread of this scourge by ordering killing of all chickens in infected farms and a compensation of two-hundred and fifty Naira (N250) per bird was paid to the concerned farmers.
In view of this development, many Nigerians had lost their main source of livelihood as chicken posed threat to consumers and most people decided to remove it from their food menu. The fear of the bottlenecks experienced by poultry farmers that reported the symptoms of the flu in their farm and collection of their compensation for all the killed birds makes other farmers to be quiet about reporting the disease to relevant authority; thereby increase the spread of this flu in the country. This is evident by the resurgence of the outbreak in some states such as Edo, Kwara and Sokoto in January 2007 coupled with claiming of first human life on 17th January, 2007 in Lagos by this same H5N1 strain of avian flu.
Definition of Terms
The following are terms that are used frequently in this discussion that might not be so common to those that are not scientifically biased:
i. Avian Influenza (“avian flu” or “bird flu”): - This is flu from viruses adapted from birds, but is sometimes mistakenly used to refer to either other flu subsets (such as H5N1 flu) or the viruses that caused them.
ii. Flu: - This is culled from the word influenza, which is an infectious disease like a very bad cold that causes fever, pains and weakness.
iii. H5N1: - This is a subtype of the influenza A virus that can cause illness in humans and many other animal species.
iv. H5: - Stands for fifth of several known types of the protein hemagglutinin.
v. N1: - Stands for the first of several known types of protein neuraminidase.
vi. Pandemic: - This term means disease that spreads easily from person-to-person, causing serious illness over a whole country or the whole world in a short time.
vii. Epidemic: - Is a large number of cases of a particular disease happening at the same time in a particular community.
viii. Mutation: - This genetic term means the evolution of one organism from one form to another. This is more common in microorganisms that cause diseases; trying to build resistance to their cure.

Appraisal On The Outbreak Of Avian Influenza Virus In Nigeria
Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These influenza viruses occur naturally among birds, wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines but usually do not get sick for them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks and turkeys very sick and kill them. Domesticated birds may be infected with avian flu virus through direct contact with infected water foul or other infected poultry or through contact with surface such as dirt or cages or materials such as water or feed that have been contaminated with virus.

Team of professionals have found evidence that migrating birds introduced the virus into Nigeria at least in three separate times, possibly. Believing that the country is at this risk because it has many bird sanctuaries along two flights paths that connect with other infected parts of the world.

The impact of avian flu virus in Nigeria since its outbreak cannot be over emphasized as it has affected the country in various ways such that health capacity, human and financial resources are overstressed due to demands of the disease coupled with the laboratory confirmation of human H5N1 infection is technically challenging, expensive and highly demanding on human resources. To eliminate this deadly disease and total prevention of likely human pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria should channelled the credit of fifty million dollars ($50m) given to her by the World Bank towards fighting against the further spread of avian influenza virus without any compromise.

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