The Federal Government has announced the spread of a new strain of Avian Influenza virus, popularly known as bird flu to 26 states including the Federal Capital Territory, affecting over 3.5 million birds.
 
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh stated this at a consultative forum with sectoral players in the livestock sub-sector. Participants at the meeting included Commissioners of Agriculture/Livestock, State Directors of Veterinary Services and major stakeholders in the poultry industry.
 
Speaking at the forum which held in Abuja yesterday, Tuesday, the Agric Minister decried the spread of the virus, which he described as “alarming”.
“The current status of the disease in the country is quite alarming, as it has now affected 26 states and the FCT with over 3.5 birds culled so far”.
 
Ogbeh explained that the first outbreak of bird flu in Nigeria was reported in 2006 and spanned through 2008, but was controlled and eradicated through concerted efforts facilitated by the availability of resources from a World Bank-sponsored project and support from the country’s development partners.
 
“The disease is trans-boundary in nature and also trade-limiting; some of our neighbouring countries have proposed to ban poultry and poultry products from Nigeria. This may undesirably lead to an egg glut in the country”, he explained.
 
Speaking on the causes of the outbreak, he noted that aside from paucity of funds, other challenges that led to the outbreak of the disease included lack of compliance with on-farm quarantine measures and movement restriction; violation of biosafety measures leading to rapid spread of the disease; and clustering of poultry farmers with limited adherence to hygienic measures.
 
To help address the challenges, Ogbeh informed that the Federal Government had provided disease containment materials, reviewed the national emergency preparedness plan on Avian Influenza, and enhanced the laboratory diagnostics capacity at the National Veterinary Research Institute in Plateau State, also created awareness and advocacy on the disease.
 
“We reviewed the national Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) on Avian Influenza to address gaps in implementation of control measures”, he expressed.
 
He also added that the Federal Government is determined to continue to work with state governments, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) and other stakeholders in the poultry industry to come up with sustainable measures to prevent, control and eradicate this disease from our country within the shortest time possible.
 
Meanwhile, participants at the meeting called on the Federal Government to complete the payment of compensation to farmers who lost millions of naira as a result of the previous outbreak of bird flu in Nigeria.
 
This they said, would encourage the farmers to make public any further development of bird flu in their respective areas before the disease would spread to other locations.