The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has disclosed that no fewer than seven states, including Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Niger have confirmed human cases of Avian Influenza H5N1 also called “Bird flu.”
It claimed that as of March 24, 2021, the seven states reported outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) cases (H5N1) in poultries.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known in an interview in Abuja, while providing highlights of the epidemiological situation and response activities in Nigeria.
He explained that Avian Influenza is a strain of the influenza virus that primarily infects birds, but can also infect humans. This type of flu is most often contracted by contact with sick birds, and can also be passed from person to person. It spreads by airborne respiratory droplets (coughs or sneezes).
He added that the symptoms begin within two to eight days and are like the common flu. Cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, and shortness of breath may occur.
Ihekweazu said that the Health National Rapid Response Team (RRT) from NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture were deployed to Bauchi, Kano, and Plateau States.
“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 subtype A/H5 while one 14.3 per cent was unsub-typable,” he explained.
The NCDC boss said that official notification about the outbreak had been conveyed to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as required by the International Health Regulations (IHR).
He added that an official report had also been sent to the authorities at both the Federal level and the affected states.
“Avian influenza outbreak Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at level 1 has been activated at national and in two states (Plateau and Gombe). Seven confirmed samples have been shipped to the WHO Collaborating Centre (WHO-CC) in the United States (US) for further characterisation,” he noted.
Speaking on the response activities, he said the second session of EOC had been conducted with a review of the outbreak situation, response Terms of Reference (TORs) and Incident Actions Plan (IAPs).
“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 said.
According to him, of the 83 contacts reported, 27 contacts are from three Local Government Areas; Nasarawa, Ungogo and Gwale in Kano State.
The others are 18 contacts 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, farmworkers, bird handlers and traders, adding that the contacts were still asymptomatic except one who presented catarrh.
“A total of 83 human nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal samples have been collected from contacts of confirmed birds in four states: 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: 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. 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.
The NCDC boss noted that sensitisation was 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.
“Distribution of Social and Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) materials to farm owners, workers, LBM associations and community leaders. List of items that facilitate safety in farms was shared with farmers, and sensitisation of workers on hygiene and regular wearing of PPE in the farm was carried out,” he said.
It would be recalled Nigeria was the first country to report human cases of A/H5N1 in the West African Region one year after the first A(H5N1) outbreak in poultry was reported in the country. The only human case of Avian Influenza in Nigeria was detected in Lagos State in January 2007.