FAO warns of a regional disaster - targeted vaccination campaigns needed
The deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus continues to spread in poultry
in Nigeria and could cause a regional disaster despite strong control
efforts taken by the Nigerian authorities, FAO said today.
“There is ample evidence that the Nigerian bird flu situation
is difficult and worrisome,” said Joseph Domenech, FAO’s
Chief Veterinary Officer.
“The movement and trade of poultry have strongly contributed
to the further spread of the virus. The government has taken the
right measures such as culling in outbreak areas and biosecurity
controls, but the authorities are facing immense difficulties to
enforce controls,” Domenech said.
“Considering the possible widespread entrenchment of the
disease in poultry, FAO is advising the government to prepare for
a targeted vaccination campaign. Culling and the application of
biosecurity measures alone may not stop the spread of the virus,” he
Vaccination campaigns will require the mobilization of several
thousand private and public Nigerian veterinarians and will need
a strong commitment from national and regional authorities and
the support of the international donor community.
Such campaigns would require funds for vaccines, cars, vaccination
teams, training, etc. Surveillance teams should be able to carefully
monitor the situation and intervene immediately when an outbreak
“The close coordination of control activities and the need
for a central chain of command at the level of the federal Chief
Veterinary Officer and between the regional states are crucial,” Domenech
FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), in collaboration
with the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources of the African
Union, are assisting the government in assessing the situation
and defining the appropriate strategies to stop the spread of the
This includes building up strategic stocks of vaccines, syringes
and protective gear for people involved in control operations.
In addition, equipment such as generators for electricity supply,
computers and laboratory equipment are urgently needed. The country
has already established an avian influenza crisis centre for the
rapid collection and dissemination of information.
Compensation and communication
“Compensating farmers for the loss of their animals is another
important tool to encourage early reporting of outbreaks and for
effective application of control measures. Without financial incentives,
people will probably continue to hide outbreaks and sell infected
poultry,” Domenech said.
FAO reiterated that people should avoid any contact with obviously
diseased or dead birds, maintain personal hygiene (handwashing)
after handling poultry or poultry meat and should cook chicken
meat and eggs at or above 70° Celsius throughout the product,
so that absolutely no meat remains raw and red. In outbreaks areas,
chicken and eggs should not be eaten.
Massive communication campaigns are needed to support control
efforts in poultry and reduce the potential exposure of people
to infected poultry. FAO commended UNICEF for having initiated
a communication campaign.
FAO has allocated around one million dollars to support surveillance
and control activities in Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Mauritania,
Egypt, Tunisia, Chad, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea,
Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia,
Mali and Cameroon. This will allow recruiting local consultants
and procuring items for surveillance and training. Personal protective
equipment has been procured for Nigeria and Niger.
Nigeria’s poultry population is estimated at 140 million.
Backyard farmers account for 60 percent of all poultry producers,
commercial farmers for 25 percent and semi-commercial farmers for
One dose of chicken vaccine costs between 5 and 20 US cents.
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