Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP through Getty Images
Avian influenza is a extremely contagious viral an infection of birds, generally known as “fowl flu”, which has been recurring in Nigeria since 2006. It has resulted within the lack of hundreds of thousands of birds and earnings for individuals who depend on the poultry trade. Nigeria is at the moment grappling with one other outbreak which began in 2021.
The Conversation Africa requested Clement Meseko, a virologist and professional on animal influenza, to elucidate the illness’s re-occurrences.
What is fowl flu? How does it unfold? Is it harmful to people?
Bird flu is scientifically often called avian influenza and the pathogenic type as extremely pathogenic avian influenza. It is a illness in birds (particularly poultry) attributable to an influenza virus. It is very pathogenic, that means it causes tissue and organ injury within the host, and might kill greater than 75% of the contaminated flock.
Waterfowls like geese are pure reservoirs of the illness. They can harbour avian flu with out displaying any signs. Many waterfowls and different wild birds are migratory, transferring throughout and between continents – this brings them into contact with resident birds and home poultry. Their physique secretions and excretions might comprise virus that may then infect different birds and poultry.
The signs in contaminated poultry embody sudden demise, respiratory misery, cough and haemorrhages in tissue and organs. Other animals, together with pigs, horses and canines can be contaminated – and so can people. In reality, it’s zoonotic and due to this fact may be deadly for people too. Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus infections have contaminated greater than 880 individuals with about 50% case fatality globally.
The virus additionally has the capability to trigger a pandemic: an influenza virus of avian origin, however not the at the moment circulating pressure, prompted the 1918 pandemic that in the end killed about 50 million individuals – worse than the present COVID-19 pandemic .
How many outbreaks have there been in Nigeria since 2006?
Nigeria’s first outbreak of fowl flu was confirmed in January 2006, the primary epidemic in poultry in Africa. It killed hundreds of thousands of birds and hundreds of thousands extra had been culled to comprise its unfold. The financial and livelihood loss was large because the illness unfold everywhere in the nation with 100% mortality in lots of circumstances.
The estimate of the financial value of fowl flu outbreak in Nigeria was over 9 billion Nigerian naira (about
US$32 million) – with individuals dropping funding, livelihood and jobs.
Pius Utomi EkpeiAFP through Getty Images
The illness was introduced below management by 2008 due to stringent biosecurity measures like depopulation (culling), decontamination and management of poultry motion. In 2015 one other pressure emerged in Nigeria. Since then, new strains maintain showing.
Live fowl markets, frequent throughout Nigeria, are the details of unfold of fowl flu whereas wetlands are the factors of preliminary transmissions. Local waterfowls and different birds that will harbour avian flu come into contact with different fowl species and with individuals. In 2006, 312 circumstances and in 2015, 256 outbreaks of extremely pathogenic avian influenza had been recorded.
What ought to Nigeria be doing in a different way?
The illness might develop into endemic in Nigeria if circulation steady and detection of the identical pressure is established. If a illness is consistently circulating in reservoir hosts it is going to result in spill over to poultry and people.
If that’s the case, biosecurity measures have to be stepped up. For occasion, the federal government might contemplate different measures along with biosecurity. This might embody managed and controlled vaccination. There are vaccines. They have been utilized in Egypt, China, Indonesia with a combination of failure and success. Vaccines solely scale back the impression of the illness however don’t forestall an infection or re-infection.
Those within the agricultural sector additionally have to introduce efficient management measures at dwell fowl markets and in the way in which poultry is traded extra broadly. Measures would come with restructuring the dwell fowl markets, discouraging the blending of species, the introduction of plastic cages and crates that may be simply cleaned and disinfected. Frequent cleansing, disinfection and decontamination of dwell fowl market environments is essential for illness containment.
You’ve described as Nigeria was an “ecological sink” for such viruses. Please clarify
In the analysis that examined the outbreak of the 2015-2016 fowl flu, we discovered that west Africa was the epicentre of the virus that was later present in different sub-Saharan African areas – the central, japanese and southern African international locations. In specific, inside west Africa, Nigeria was crucial level of virus introduction and a central hub within the virus unfold.
Bird flu is usually launched into Nigeria by way of the presence and actions of untamed birds. For occasion, within the 2015-2016 outbreak we recognized 4 virus introductions into Nigeria probably from east Europe.
These birds journey throughout continents and international locations by way of a number of worldwide migratory routes, in a lot the identical approach that airways transfer internationally on designated routes. Three main wild fowl migratory routes from Asia and Europe transverse Nigeria. That’s excellent news for biodiversity however dangerous information for illness management.
Bird watchers and ornithologists have discovered that migratory birds from Europe transfer into Nigeria yearly through the chilly harmattan season (November – February). This is the height time for avian flu outbreaks.
Nigeria is essentially the most affected African nation by way of the frequency and burden of avian flu. This makes it the vacation spot “sink” of the strains which may be circulating in Europe at any given time.
Because we will’t change birds’ routes or habits, it might be as much as Nigerian authorities to verify it retains its native birds and other people as protected as potential. This would come with surveillance of untamed birds at wetlands and the monitoring of viral infections. Early detection is significant for early warning, danger evaluation and management of an infection.
Clement Meseko receives funding from National Veterinary Research Institute. He is affiliated with OIE/FAO (OFFLU) Expert Working Group on Animal Influenza.
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