After two years without any reported outbreak, the federal government recently alerted poultry farmers and other stakeholders of the outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly called bird flu in the country.
Dr Olaniran Alabi, Director, Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, in a statement, said the ministry had received a report of the outbreak from the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, Plateau State, adding that it has activated all the necessary surveillance mechanisms across the 36 states.
The National President, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr Ibrahim Ezekiel Mam, who also confirmed the outbreak, said South Korea and a few other countries are also experiencing the outbreak.
Already, two infected farms have been depopulated in Plateau State.
Measures poultry farmers should take
The best way to prevent infection with avian influenza viruses, according to experts, is to avoid sources of exposure as much as possible. Infected birds carry the avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and faeces.
According to the PAN president, avian influenza is an airborne disease, usually occurring during cold weather – between November and February.
He advised farmers to restrict the movement of people to their farms.
“Farmers should make sure they disinfect all their equipment and ensure the environment is not accessible to pests because if they have contact with poultry they can easily infest the farm,’’ he advised.
Mr Abdullahi Iyanda, a retired extension service officer advised farmers to take the following measures:
- If infected wild birds are in the area, reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry are kept.
- Change your clothes before and after contact with your flock, and ensure visitors do the same.
- Farmers should note that the disease is spread by direct bird-to-bird contact, through contaminated body fluids and faeces, or through contaminated water, feed, vehicles, clothing and footwear.
On his part, Malam Ahmed Kuje, a retired agriculturist, said stringent biosecurity remained key in minimising the risk of the flu and therefore advised farmers to:
- Stop any bugs from spreading between sheds; equipment must not be shared, and ideally, there should be a physical barrier between clean and dirty areas, with separate clothing and footwear for each.
- Make covered foot-dips, using Defra-approved disinfectant, available outside all entrances, and assign staff to specific houses.
- Keep a visitor’s book and minimise access to the site; disinfecting all vehicles on arrival.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be issued at the biosecure point to visitors, and a disposal bin should be available.