More than 1.4 million birds were destroyed to stamp out bird influenza that hit poultry farms early this year, according to Dr. Mohammed Ahmed, the Executive Director, National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom.

Ahmed told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Vom on Sunday, that 18 states were affected by the flu whose last case was reported on May 28.

He said that 800 suspicions were diagnosed in the institute’s laboratory out of which 500 tested positive to the disease.

The NVRI boss said that compensations for the destroyed birds were already being paid by the Federal Government.

“Payment of compensation for the destroyed birds is already in progress; it started and stopped at a point, but it has resumed,” he said.

He observed that the compensation was being handled by the Federal Government and appealed to the states to help by initiating steps to assist farmers.

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“Since it is the economies of the affected states that are being largely affected, the states should augment the compensation as they did during the first outbreak years ago.

“The states should specifically help in the design of poultry farms to encourage bio-security of the farms,’’ he explained.

Ahmed particularly warned against cluster farms, and blamed that trend for the large number of birds that had to be destroyed.

The NVRI boss singled out Plateau and Kano as states with the largest concentration of cluster farms, and explained that the flu usually spread faster and engulf more birds in cluster famrs.

He expressed satisfaction that the flu was contained in few months compared to the first outbreak that lasted from 2006-2008, but observed that more birds were destroyed this time.

“More birds had to go because the production of poultry has changed with the cluster farms. In Rantya, a village in Jos South Local Government, for instance, the cluster farms are so close and heavily concentrated in one vicinity,’’ he said.

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Ahmed said that the disease had subsided but “certainly not over yet’’.

“We are not taking anything for granted and have therefore gone into active surveillance.

“We have already trained people to take samples; their task is to buy and test chickens randomly from farms and live birds markets all over the nation.

“We are virtually out of the passive, so we must go to look for possible cases. There are states and federal offices and officers to handle surveillance even in the remotest of the rural settlements.

“Such surveillance is usually the most expensive part of disease control, but Nigeria is being supported by some interventions from the World Bank, FAO, USAID and other development partners.’’

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Ahmed said that the Federal Government was also carrying out forensic investigation to ascertain how the disease came in.

“We are forced to do that because what was diagnosed in NVRI laboratories is not related with previous cases, it is a new introduction all together,’’ explained.

He said that there were many speculations with humans suspected to be possible carriers, while poultry importations could also be a source of disease dissemination.

Ahmed however, expressed happiness that no human case had been found, saying that people tested, including farm workers, proved negative.

The NVRI boss disclosed that another poultry disease, known as Newcastle disease, was being zeroed in for eradication by the international community through vaccinations like Thermostable and MDV12 that is usually targeted at poultry farmers in the hinterlands.

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