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NVMA Holds Press Conference on Avian Influenza

 

TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION,(N.V.M.A),DR.EDGAR AMOS SUNDAY, ON THURSDAY, 19th FEBRUARY, 2015, AT THE N.V.M.A. SECRETARIATE, V.C.N. BUILDING, No.8, ZAMBEZI CRESCENT, MAITAMA, ABUJA.

Gentlemen of the Press,


Sequel to the resurgence of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or Bird flu in Nigeria, the Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association(N.V.M.A) as a leading stakeholder in the diagnosis, prevention and control of the disease wishes to brief you and the general public on the current situation and what needs to be done to contain it. 
Before then, let me also highlight some contemporary issues that are germane to the country's development including the capacity for prevention, treatment and control of animal and human diseases. These include:

1. Elections.

The N.V.M.A is concerned that the 2015 general elections that have been re-scheduled to hold about a month from now has sadly been pre-ceded by unnecessary threats, violence, hate-speech and primordial sentiments instead of sublime discourse on issues that  engender good governance, nation-building, and development. If the desire to win elections is motivated by a genuine intention to serve the country as it should be, then why would political candidates seek to destroy that same country? The N.V.M.A calls on all politicians, political leaders, religious leaders, elders, statesmen and indeed all Nigerians, to eschew bitterness, threats, intimidation and violence and ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible. The Independent National Electoral Commission(I.N.E.C.), security agencies, political parties, the media and all other critical stakeholders should play their respective roles to make the elections peaceful, credible and successful.

Security.

The security of lives and properties is a sine qua non for the development of any society. The unspeakable horror and mayhem unleashed by insurgents especially in parts of northern Nigeria has placed the socio-economic life of the people in jeopardy. Under a cloud of terror and horror, it would be difficult to control any disease either of plants, animals or man. Indeed, two veterinary doctors are among those brutally murdered by insurgents in the north-east of the country. The N.V.M.A. calls on the sponsors and perpetrators of the insurgency to sheath their swords. In the same vein we commend the armed forces of Nigeria and those of neighboring countries for the renewed impetus in fighting the insurgents which has led to the successes in liberating some areas in Borno state. 
Another issue of security concern to the N.V.M.A is the incessant clashes between nomadic herdsmen and sedentary crop farmers. Here, veterinary doctors hold a vantage position in ameliorating the situation. We believe that with the support of government and cooperation of relevant stakeholders, innovative and more productive ways of livestock husbandry based on recent advances in science rather than classical nomadism can be embraced.
We also note that the establishment and strengthening of veterinary units in conventional security organizations such as the army, police, customs, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and so on, would enhance the overall security of the country. Trained sniffer dogs for instance, are adept at detecting bombs and explosives as well as hard drugs.

Economy.

The N.V.M.A. is concerned at the increasing slump in prices of crude oil in the international market as well as the value of the naira viz-a-viz other currencies such as the dollar. This portends grim prospects for our economy and government's capacity to discharge its social responsibilities. On the other hand, the N.V.M.A. wishes to reiterate the strident call to diversify our economy and liberate it from the vicissitudes, vagaries and volatility of the international oil market. At any rate, oil is an exhaustible commodity, therefore it is unwise for for any country to let its economy to entirely rest on it. Fortunately, Nigeria is richly endowed with other resources that, if properly harnessed, can lead to the country's rapid socio-economic and industrial development. One of such resources is livestock. In this regard, we wish to commend the Agricultural Transformation Agenda(ATA) of the federal government and urge that the livestock sector component be made more robust and effective.We call on states to invest in and harness the potentials in areas that they have comparative advantage such as solid minerals, arable agriculture, livestock, tourism, and so on.

Professions.

The N.V.M.A.  further notes with concern the lack of strict adherence to ethics by members of key professions in the country. We are also concerned at the unnecessary rivalry and animosity by professionals and professional associations working in the same sector such as health, education and agriculture. For instance, we feel that the relationship between medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, laboratory scientists and other cadres of staff in the health sector should be more cordial. Indeed, especially in the light of the increasing emerging zoonotic diseases, veterinary and human medical doctors should be seen to collaborate and work more closely. In the livestock sub sector of agriculture, veterinary doctors, animal scientists and other professionals ought to be seen more in concord rather than discord. The current apparent animosity between professionals in the same sector inhibits the capacity of such professions from discharging their statutory mandates. Furthermore, the N.V.M.A. is concerned at the high frequency of strikes and industrial disputes which are inimical to the country's progress. While calling on trade unions to show more understanding and restrain, we call on employers, especially government,to be sensitive to the welfare of workers. Government should also be more circumspect in signing agreements that they are unwilling or unable to implement.

National Development.

The N.V.M.A. calls on all Nigerians regardless of professional calling, occupation, religion,ethnic background, geographical location or political affiliation to strive to contribute to national development. We should eschew strife, bigotry, corruption and indolence. Instead, we should embrace hard work, patriotism, professionalism, empathy and excellence.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird flu) resurgence in Nigeria.


The concern.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza(HPAI) or Bird flu caused by the H5N1 strain of the virus affects wild birds and domestic poultry in which it causes very high mortality. The disease has been reported in several countries of the world. In Nigeria, the first  and previous outbreak occurred in 2006 - 2008 until the current resurgence. In Nigeria, bird flu is of grave concern for at least three reasons: 
Firstly, the poultry industry in Nigeria is estimated be worth over 700 billion naira, contributing about 25% of the agricultural GDP. A disease such as bird flu that is highly fatal and capable of decimating the poultry population, therefore,has the potential to adversely affect the country's economy. 
Secondly,the poultry industry also employs an estimated 25 million people in Nigeria. If it is not contained, bird flu would place the jobs of a huge segment of the populace in jeopardy and exacerbate the already dire unemployment situation in the country with the attendant socio-economic consequences.
Thirdly, bird flu is a zoonotic disease, that is , it affects both animals and humans. While bird flu causes nearly 100% mortality in poultry, the mortality rate in humans is also high, ranging between 60-70%. During the 2006 outbreak, a lady infected with the virus died in Lagos. While there are concerns on trying to limit the spread and stop the transmission from poultry to humans, the greater concern is on ensuring that the virus does not mutate into a form that can be transmitted from human to human.

Current situation.

The current outbreak was first reported from a commercial farm in Kano on 24th December, 2014 and a live bird market at Onipanu in Lagos on 8th January 2015. This was confirmed by the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom. As at yesterday, 18th February, the disease has been confirmed in 17 states nationwide. These are Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Delta, Plateau, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Oyo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Bauchi, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Anambra. The confirmed cases are from 146 poultry farms, 10 live bird markets and 1 zoological garden spread in 61 local government areas. There has not been any reported case of bird flu so far in humans in the country and all human samples have so far tested negative.

Clinical signs in poultry.

While stressing that bird flu can only be confirmed from samples analysed in the laboratory, it is helpful to note that affected birds usually show signs of ruffled feathers, sneezing, coughing, drop in egg production, bluish comb and wattles, and high mortality.

Prospects for containment.

Despite the grim implications of bird flu resurgence in Nigeria, the prospects for its containment are bright. Firstly, less than 1% of the country's estimated 140 million poultry population is infected. We also do not have a single human case so far. The experience. technical manpower, facilities and support used in containing the 2006 outbreak is accessible. Fortunately, the strong political will as demonstrated in the swift and dynamic response of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina as well as the synergy created by relevant stakeholders such as Development partners, poultry farmers, veterinary doctors, the media, animal scientists, human medical doctors,and so on, provide huge potential for early containment of the disease. To this end, the N.V.M.A. wishes to make the following recommendations:
1. The public should not panic.
2.Cases of ill health in poultry should be reported immediately to the nearest veterinary clinic. 
3.Poultry farms should ensure strict monitoring and restriction of movement of people and items such as crates, bags and so on especially between farms. There should also be strict hygiene before and after handling poultry.
4.The Avian Influenza Control Project structures in various states should be strengthened and equipped to,carry out public enlightenment, surveillance, depopulation, disinfection and so on. State governments in particular should invest more in providing and upgrading veterinary infrastructure.
5. Active surveillance should be carried out immediately through out the country even in states where the disease has not been reported. This is to facilitate movement ahead of the virus.
6. More Veterinary Doctors should be employed by government. The situation in some states that have less than 10 Veterinary Doctors in their service is inimical to both animal and public health. Such states cannot effectively implement effective health service delivery and control of diseases like bird flu.
7. More Veterinary hospitals, clinics and laboratories should be constructed while existing ones should be rehabilitated and equipped. Specifically, the N.V.R.I laboratory in Vom and its zonal branches should be supported to enhance the capacity for quick and accurate diagnosis of bird flu and other diseases. Development partners should lend their support in these regard.
8. Standard operational procedures for poultry business should be re-designed and implemented.
9.The Animal Disease (Control) Decree No.10 of 1988 should be reviewed and streamlined to suite contemporary realities.
10.The N.V.M.A has weighed the scientific and other arguments concerning the use of vaccines and is of the opinion that for now, the current government policy against vaccination as a strategy in control of bird flu should be sustained. 
11.While commending the federal government for the payment of compensation to farmers whose farms have been depopulated, more funds should be provided to facilitate the exercise to other farmers whose poultry have also been depopulated.
12.Poultry meat and eggs should be hygienically processed and, if well - cooked, is safe for human consumption.


Conclusion.

We call on all Veterinary Doctors to consider the current resurgence of bird flu as a professional challenge and rise to the occasion for the development of our people and our country. Veterinarians should be more dedicated, innovative, resilient and adhere to the highest professional ethics and standards.
By the grace of God and working together as a nation, bird flu will also be conquered like Ebola.

 

 

 

Affiliate Organisations and Institutes

NVRI-logo-web Nigerian Veterinary Research Institute
NAPRI NATIONAL ANIMAL PRODUCTION RESEARCH INSTITUTE
 NITR NIGERIAN INSTITUTE FOR TRYPANOSOMIASIS RESEARCH
 ARCN  AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF NIGERIA
 VMAP-NAFDAC VETERINARY MEDICINE AND ALLIED PRODUCTS DIRECTORATE NAFDAC

 

 

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