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.

GMOs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What are GMOs? (Genetically Modified Organisms)

GMOs are organisms whose genetic structure have been altered using modern biotechnology; simply put, these are plants or animals which have one or more genes added, removed or modified, you remember that high school biology story bout genes right? I know I don’t, so let’s do a recap.

Genes are basically what makes us who we are, they are responsible for every physical characteristic that we exhibit. Genes control height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, hair density, Can you roll your tongue? Some can and others can’t-genes are responsible for that too!

All plants and animals (humans too) have genes unique to their species. GMOs are created by taking genes from one specie and placing it in another so that the new specie produced can exhibit some of the characters of the other species.

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The good

The main advantage of GMOs is the ability to combine different characteristics from different species to produce a new plant or animal with both e.g. a specie of tomato may produce high yields but may be susceptible to pests and diseases, a pest and disease resistant gene from another plant is infused into this, so that a new organism that is both high yielding and disease resistant is produced. Sounds good right?

Common uses of GMOs in agriculture include: improved yield, resistance to diseases, reduction of spoilage, improvement of nutrient profile of crops, resistance to herbicides and certain environmental conditions, preservation of endangered species, production of pharmaceuticals (e.g. gene therapy and vaccines against the Ebola virus) and bio-fuels.

The bad

When a foreign particle gets into the human body system, our body tries to get rid of it. The liver produces toxins (poisons) that can kill or breakdown whatever the foreign particle is so it becomes harmless, these toxins sometimes induce vomiting, stooling, high body temperature (to kill the particle) or the toxins may work ‘quietly’ without producing any symptoms from the body. The same thing happens in plants, these new genes are strangers to the functioning system of the plants and so the plants also produce toxins to try and destroy these genes, unfortunately genes cannot be killed or destroyed so these toxins tend to accumulate in the plant. When these plants are consumed, the modified genes and toxins can enter into the body of humans and are known to cause a variety of reactions, from simple allergies to cancer.

The production of chemical resistant varieties increasingly affects the biodiversity of the ecosystem, as the genes in these varieties are sometimes toxic to beneficial insects especially pollinators such as bees and butterflies, continuous cultivation of these varieties in an area may see the complete extinction of these agents of pollination, thereby causing unimaginable harm to other crops that depend on them for pollination (reproduction).

Herbicide resistant varieties may become cross pollinated with weeds which promotes the growth and existence of ‘super weeds’ which become resistant to regular herbicides and special herbicides are produced for these weeds, these special herbicide contain untold levels of harmful chemicals that are released into the atmosphere.

GMOs harm the soil in two ways, firstly they can only be produced as monocrops, mono-cropping constantly mines the soil of its nutrients without and organic form of replacement, hence the need to often over apply inorganic or mineral fertilizers which are not very healthy for the soil (more on this later)

Secondly, toxins and strains produced by GMOs have been found to remain in the soil for up to 10 years, this implies that whatever crop is cultivated on that land within that period (GMO or not) will take up these strains and toxins and when these are consumed may produce the same effects as the GMOs.

The ugly

In April 2015, the former president of Nigeria signed into law the national bio-safety agency bill that allows for the production and importation of GMOs into the country. However, on the assumption of office of the new minister of agriculture, investigations revealed that claims made by a Kenyan Harvard professor who has been in the forefront promoting GMOs (that lead to the bill passage were inaccurate) as stated here.

Sadly, on the 20th of June 2016, the minister of environment released a press statement approving the proposal of one Monsanto agriculture Nigeria Ltd (looks like a Chinese company to me, find them here) seeking for the commercial release and placement in the environment of a GMO cotton (BT cotton) which is insect resistant. According to this article, a similar application was submitted by the same company to Malawi in 2014 for the commercial release of BT cotton, but the Malawian national bio-safety regulatory committee recommended its nullification on the bases that claims of economic gains were false, issues of secondary pests, environmental risks were not addressed.

Why does the Nigerian Government continually fail to carry out adequate research?

Phewww! That was one long post, and I hope it was beneficial. what are your thought on GMOs in Nigeria? As always, I love to hear from you in the comments