Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, NCDC

Nigeria has officially notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly known as Bird Flu, in the country.

The report which had also been sent to the relevant authorities at the federal level and the affected states by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is in consonance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) requirements once an outbreak occurs for appropriate and timely intervention.

“Avian influenza outbreak Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at level 1 has been activated at national and in two states (Plateau and Gombe).

NCDC had announced the outbreak of the Bird flu in Nigeria on Tuesday, listing Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger as states that have reported confirmed human cases of highly pathogenic strain of Avian Influenza, H5N1.

NCDC Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said, “Seven confirmed samples have been shipped to the WHO Collaborating Centre (WHO-CC) in the United States (US) for further characterization.”

Public Health experts had, sequel to reports of outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian flu in backyard and commercial farms in Plateau and Kano states in January expressed worries that allowing an outbreak of such linger in the country at this time that the world id battling COVID-19 pandemic could be too much to bear.

Another Pandemic Looms: Experts Warn Against Outbreak of COVID-Like Bird Flu in Nigeria

In separate interviews with AfricaSTI, they were particularly concerned about the consequences of the confusions that could arise from diagnosis and management of the two diseases which often present with similar manifestations in the form of cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache and shortness of breath.

Although, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development  issued a circular in February mandating all states to establish emergency preparedness plan to prevent spread, recent event as announced by NCDC shows that the plan put up by the respective states have not been able to stop further outbreaks of the disease across the country.

Giving details of the latest outbreak, Dr Ihekweazu said, as of March 24, “Seven states: Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Niger States have confirmed cases of Avian Influenza among poultry.”

“Two states have reported seven cases among humans – Kano four and Plateau three. Only Kano, Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe States have had human contacts of birds followed up,” he added.

Explaining further, he said, a total of 83 human samples were received and 64 (87.7 per cent) samples were tested, of which seven (10.9%) were positive for Flu A, six (85.7%) were subtype A/H5 while one 14.3 per cent was unsub-typable.

According to him, of the 83 contacts reported, 27 contacts are from three Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Nasarawa, Ungogo and Gwale in Kano State.

18 contacts were from two LGAs (Jos North and South) in Plateau; 19 contacts from two LGAs (Bauchi and Toro) in Bauchi State, and 19 contacts from three LGAs (Kaltungo, Yamaltu Deba and Gombe) in Gombe State.

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

He said, a total of 83 human nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal samples have been collected from contacts of confirmed birds in four states, including Kano (27), Plateau (18), Bauchi (19) and Gombe (19).

“A total of 13 blood samples have also been collected from the very-close contacts (human) of the birds in three states as follows: Plateau (3), Bauchi (5), and Gombe (5). Of 83 human samples collected, 64 (87.7 per cent) samples were analysed using Real time Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Of 64 samples analysed, only 7 (10.9 per cent) were positive for Flu A,” Dr Ihekweazu said.

He said of the seven samples positive for Flu A, only six “85.7 per cent “were positive for A/H5 while one (14.3 per cent) was unsubtypable.

All seven positive samples have been shipped to WHO Coordinating centre for further lab analysis,” he said.

Speaking on the response activities instituted so far, the NCDC DG said a second session of Emergency Operation Centres had been conducted with review of outbreak situation, response Terms of Reference (TORs) and Incident Actions Plan (IAPs).

He said sensitisation has been carried out by the national and state RRT to farm owners, workers, Live Bird Market (LBM) associations and communities in the affected states.

He added that biosecurity measures were extensively discussed for the benefit of the farmers and communities.


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