Bird flu in Nigeria; Protect Yourself and Your Birds

The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has disclosed the re-occurrence of bird flu in Nigeria, citing its presence in 26 states and the FCT with over 3.5 million birds affected.

Bird flu, formally known as Avian influenza is an illness caused by strains of influenza viruses that occur naturally in wild and aquatic birds in which they do no harm (these are referred to asymptomatic carriers), but they can be transmitted to domestic birds in which they cause severe diseases with high mortality, with up to 90- 100 % mortality in 24- 48 hours. A few types of bird flu can be transmitted to other animals as well as man.

Methods of transmission

Bird flu primarily spreads in humans and birds by contact with infected birds or contact with surfaces that have been exposed to the virus. People who do not regularly come in contact with birds are not at a high risk, however poultry farm workers and bird sellers have a high risk of contracting the disease. The virus does NOT survive in well cooked meat.

The virus can survive for a long period outside the host and can also be transmitted by mechanical vectors such as vehicles, equipment, moving poultry droppings (manure) between farms, and personnel travelling between farm, markets and abattoirs.

Symptoms of bird flu.

  • Ruffled feathers
  • Depression and droopiness (uncontrolled sleeping)
  • Sudden drop in egg production
  • Sudden death of birds
  • Swelling of head, eyelids, comb
  • In-coordination, loss of ability to walk
  • Nasal discharges
  • Soft shelled eggs
  • Respiratory distress

In humans, Avian influenza symptoms include; fever, cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis (eye infection), muscle aches, pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment of bird flu in poultry is almost impossible due to the rate at which the disease spreads, it is therefore advisable to slaughter all birds that have been exposed to the disease. Avian influenza vaccination can also be used as a supplementary tool for treating bid flu.

Steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of bird flu to your farms include;

  • Tighter bio-security measures: Only farm workers should be allowed into the farm, restricting the movement of your farm workers to other farms, vehicles and equipment entering the farm should be well disinfected.
  • Regular disinfection of the farm area (fumigation) using broad spectrum virucidal disinfectants such as ViraCid – S, VIROCID, and CID 20.
  • Workers handling infected birds should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) e.g. gloves, coveralls, boots, safety goggles, nose masks, and respirators.

if you have a backyard flock for your family only, take note of the following;

  • prevent contact of your birds with other wild birds, wild birds can be attracted to your yard by the presence of poultry feed and water. use proper netting or other forms of barriers to protect the birds,their feed and water.
  • use designated clothing when attending to your birds.
  • separate birds of different species especially ducks and geese as they sometimes act as asymptomatic carriers.
  • wash and disinfect your hands before and after attending to birds
  • check your birds regularly for any sign of illness.
  • keep the environment around your birds clean and unattractive to wild birds.

Antiviral drugs and avian flu vaccines have been used to treat cases of bird flu in humans.

Abisola Oladele.