Kazeem Ugbodaga

The Lagos State Government says that 2,000 birds have been killed in a poultry farm in Badore area of Lagos, southwest Nigeria, as bird flu breaks out in the state, just as intensive surveillance has been mounted in all poultry farms in the state to prevent spread of the deadly disease.

Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperative, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, at a news conference on Friday at the Government Secretariat, Alausa, said the name of the poultry farm would not be disclosed for security reasons, adding that because of the outbreak of the flu, 2,000 birds had been depopulated from the farm while the entire farm had been quarantined.

According to him, during the last Christmas and New Year Festival period, the Veterinary Department of the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives received a report of high mortalities of birds in poultry markets across the state.

He said bird samples collected by the department and sent to the National Veterinary Research Institute in Vom, Plateau State, had unfortunately been found positive for the H5 strain of the Avian Influenza popularly known as bird flu.

“Samples collected from a poultry farm in Badore have also been confirmed positive and a Zoological park based in Victoria Garden City currently experiencing high mortality of wild birds in captivity is on the suspicion list and it is being investigated,” he stated.

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Lawal said in order to contain the spread of the infection, the government had embarked on active Diseases Search by surveillance agents, Biosecurity Monitoring and Sensitization in poultry farms and markets, disinfection of Poultry Markets and decontamination of affected farms and sensitization of poultry farmers and traders on insurance policy issues.

“To complement these activities, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is collaborating with the State Ministry of Health, the Lagos State branch of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, National Agriculture Insurance Corporation (NAIC) and Lagos State Fowl Sellers Association.

“A team of eight technical staff, comprising of representatives of the Federal Livestock Department, National Quarantine Service and the National Veterinary Research Institute is currently in the state on disease assessment and surveillance,” he said.

The commissioner disclosed that the emergency active disease search carried out in the last 48 hours had so far indicated no spread of the disease, adding that in order to contain the spread, the active disease search is on going in farms and poultry markets.

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“Sensitization of poultry farmers and fowl sellers is being vigorously embarked on by the Surveillance and Extension Agents deployed by the ministry to cover the entire state. Disinfection of all live bird markets in the state is already on going.

“All poultry farmers and fowl sellers are hereby enjoined to adhere strictly to biosecurity measures and report unusual incidence of high mortalities of birds. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Health have deployed surveillance agents to the various parts of the state,” he said.

Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris said there was no cause for alarm and advised Lagosians to embrace basic hygiene to prevent contracting the disease, saying that people should ensure that they cook their birds properly before eating and report cases of mortality in birds in any area to the government.

Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds. Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; however some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.

According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.

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Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A(H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and international trade.

WHO said the majority of human cases of A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry as there is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.

The WHO said controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.

AI viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease.

Some of these AI viruses have also been reported to cross the species barrier and cause disease or sub-clinical infections in humans and other mammals.