Bird Flu threats escalate in Nigeria

THE highly pathogenic avian influenza has spread to seven states and affected over 140,000 birds.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, cases of bird flu has been recorded in Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Plateau State.  The minister also stated that 22,573 of the birds has been killed, while promising that the disease would be contained.

The disease was first discovered in Lagos and Kano, before spreading to the other five states.

Farmers are being urged to raise bio-security and consumers are warned only to buy poultry products from reliable sources.

AVIAN Influenza, popularly known as Bird Flu is caused by viruses adapted to birds.  All known viruses that cause influenza in birds belong to the specie of Influenza A virus.

Avian Influenza viruses are divided into two groups based on their ability to cause disease in poultry.  They are High Pathogenicity and Low Pathogenicity.

High Pathogenicity viruses result in high death rates up to 100 per cent mortality within 48 hours in some poultry species, while Low Pathogenicity viruses also cause outbreak in poultry but are not generally associated with severe disease.

Companion birds in captivity are highly unlikely to contract the virus. Most human contractions of avian flu are a result of either dead infected birds or from contact with infected fluids.

Bird flu has been around for a long time in wild birds. It started getting noticed by poultry farmers in the early 1900s, but the potent flu virus known as H5N1 wasn’t discovered until 1998, when it suddenly surfaced on a goose farm in China.

H5N1 attracted attention because birds became sick so swiftly and many died.  Since that time, H5N1 has spread to over 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

There are a few direct and indirect ways for H5N1 to spread once it strikes a domestic flock of birds.  Often it comes from migratory wild water fowls such as duck or geese, that can carry the virus from place to place without getting sick.  That is why scientists call these wild birds reservoirs for the virus.

Avian Influenza viruses can sometime spread to domestic poultry and cause large scale outbreak of serious diseases.  Some of the viruses have been reported to cross the specie barrier and cause disease or subclinical infections in humans and other mammals due to direct contact with infected birds.

In many patients, the disease caused by the H5N1 virus follows an unusual aggressive clinical course, with rapid deterioration and high fatality like most emerging diseases.  The incubation period for H5N1 ranges from two to eight days and possibly as long as 17 days.

Initial symptoms in humans include high fever, usually with a temperature higher than 380C, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain, bleeding from the nose and gum and other influenza symptoms like cough, sore throat, etc.

A common symptom in many patients is the development of pains in the lower respiratory tract early in the illness. Respiratory distress, a hoarse voice and a cracking sound when inhaling, are common.  Sputum production varies and sometimes with blood.  Complication of H5N1 infection include hypoxemia, multiple organ dysfunction and secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

Evidence suggests that some antiviral drugs can reduce the duration of viral replication and improve prospects of survival, but it should be prescribed as soon as possible, ideally, within 48 hours following symptom to maximize its therapeutic benefits.  The use of corticosteroids is not recommended.

Meanwhile, ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to medical doctors, poultry farmers and restaurant operators on how to curb the spread of bird flu.


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