Avian Influenza – Nigeria

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On March 24, 2021, the seven states of Nigeria reported outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) cases (H5N1) in poultry farming workers.

This type of flu is most often contracted by contact with sick birds. It can also be passed from person to person. Symptoms begin within two to eight days and can seem like the common flu. Cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache and shortness of breath may occur. The disease can carry a high mortality in humans.

A total of 83 human samples were received and 64 (87.7 per cent) samples were tested. Of the tested samples, seven (10.9 per cent) were positive for Flu A, six 85.7 per cent were sub type A/H5 while one 14.3 per cent was unsub-typable.

All contacts were farmers, farm workers, bird handlers and traders, adding that the contacts were still asymptomatic except one who presented catarrh.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) noted that sensitization was carried out by the national and state RRT to farm owners, workers, Live Bird Market (LBM) associations and communities in the affected states.Also biosecurity measures were extensively discussed for the benefit of the farmers and communities.

Photo: H5N1 virus colorized micrograph, viruses are gold colored in MDCK cells (green).

Avian influenza is deadly to most birds, but it can also be deadly to humans and other animals that catch the virus (poultry farming). Since the first human case in 1997, H5N1 has killed nearly 60% of those who have been infected. Unlike human flu, avian flu does not spread easily from person to person.

Avian influenza subtypes H5N8, H5N5, H5N3, and H5N1 are currently circulating mostly in the European continent (for now). The pathogens have been detected in wild birds and these viruses are being distributed wherever wild birds migrate.

Poultry producers are recommended to implement bio-security measures necessary to protect their flocks and humans from exposure and infection.

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