Expert allays fears on transmission of bird flu in humans

An Abuja-based veterinary doctor, Dr Yomi Nafiu, said on Wednesday that bird flu viruses could not be transmitted to humans who ate carefully prepared poultry products.
Nafiu told newsmen in Abuja that there was no empirical evidence to prove the claims that avian influenza is a human scourge.
He noted that few human cases had been linked to consumption of dishes made of raw, contaminated poultry food.

According to him, slaughtering, de-feathering, handling carcasses of infected poultry and preparing poultry for consumption, especially in household settings are likely to be risk factors.
“The primary risk factor for human infection appears to be direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments, such as live bird markets. “Controlling circulation of the viruses in poultry is essential to reducing the risk of human infection. “Given the persistence of the viruses in some poultry populations, control will require long-term commitments and strong coordination between animal and public health authorities,’’ Nafiu said.
He said there are possible risks of infection for people who had contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds. Nafiu said the symptoms of avian influenza in humans could be fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases and other severe and life-threatening complications.

He said the symptoms of avian influenza may depend on which virus caused the infection. “The spread of avian influenza A viruses from one ill person to another through prolonged, unprotected, close contact has been reported very rarely, and has been limited, inefficient and not sustained. “ However, because avian influenza A viruses have the potential to change and gain the ability to spread easily among people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is extremely important for public health,’’ Nafiu said.
He advised Nigerians not to eat sick birds as that increase chances of infection, adding that eating healthy birds and commercial egg is safe. “We just need basic hygiene like washing, cleaning of hands and cooking utensils at all times.
“Farmers are more likely to catch the disease on farms where bio-security measures are not strictly adhered to.’’
Nafiu said farmers should restrict movement in and out of their farms by ensuring that vehicles or equipment be disinfected.
He also urged humans to change shoes, wear overalls, wash hands and feet or bathe. “They should ensure that virus or bacteria are not allowed into the farm; keep farms clean and free of vermin, cobwebs.“Farms should also be sprayed regularly with disinfectant as most of these microbes are susceptible to most disinfectants and sometimes they vaccinate,’’ Nafiu said

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