Nigeria fears avian flu epidemic

January 30, 1998

SCIENTISTS fear the spread of avian flu in Nigeria after cases were diagnosed by three university-based doctors, Tunde Fatunde writes. This month 1.2 million birds contaminated by the avian flu were slaughtered in Hong Kong.

The fear of influenza spreading was heightened when the avian influenza virus was isolated from 424 turkey poults at the University of Ibadan's teaching and research farm. Researchers from the department of veterinary medicine have also found a strain of the virus in local poultry farms.

Ayo Owoade, a poultry specialist, said research revealed "seropositive results which showed the evidence of avian influenza in the poultry flock", but that the specific avian influenza virus strain has not been isolated.

In a study of pigs and chickens in Ibadan, scientists claimed that "there is a continuous and high activity of three strains of influenza virus in pigs and chickens in Ibadan metropolis".

Researchers have warned that there is an urgent need for more research but are worried about funding difficulties.

Nigeria has no mammalian or avian laboratory capable of providing materials for accurate diagnosis of diseases, particularly those that are transmissible from animals to humans.

Consequently, diagnoses are mostly based on symptoms that are often misleading because two unrelated diseases could present the same clinical signals.

In the face of an eventual avian epidemic in Nigeria, poultry farmers may refuse to cooperate with health authorities and continue to sell infected birds.

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