By Chioma Obinna
Although the influenza A(H1N1) infection may not be making news headlines like it did few years back, the fact is that, nations have not relented in making efforts to keep the pandemic at arms length.
Certainly few years ago the headlines were all about A(H1N1), recently the situation is different. Agencies in the various countries of the world are closely watching how the infection is developing and Nigeria is not an exceptional in this direction. This is being possible through high level of alerts on the pandemic.
It is on record that the first case of A -H1N1 was recorded first in Lagos, 2009 and there were other cases which total it to 11 cases and two deaths while the last was case was in July 2008, when it affected farms in Kano and Kastina.
Following its multi sectoral approach to fight the pandemic, today, Nigeria is rated ahead of 84 affected countries worldwide in the control and containment of the dreaded Avian Influenza virus by the World Bank.
Good Health Weekly spoke to the Coordinator, Communication Component in the Federal Ministry of Information, Mr. Olabanji Akeredolu on the journey so far and why A- H1N1 is still a problem. Excerpts:
Nigeria has done so well in containing the Avian Influenza pandemic. We have been able to keep the spread of A-H1N1 seriously in check. According to Akeredolu the only worry at the moment is in the animal level. â€œWe prepared early, 2005. The initial funds to set up key structures from the Federal Government of Nigeria was utilsed so well. We set up a steering and technical committee. We have the crisis centre amongst others.â€
The efforts of Nigeria in controlling the pandemic has earned the country various commendation by the World Bank. Currently, Nigeria is rated as one of the best countries in the fight against the pandemic. â€œThe World Bank has commended the Nigeria government on the progress so far and rated Nigeria ahead over 80 of such interventions around the world. Even at the animal level now, the country is on top of it. We have launched surveillance regularly on the live bird markets, farms . We have been disinfecting live bird markets. To date we have not had any out break since the last one we had in July 2008 in Kano and Kastina.â€
Narrating why Nigeria government went a step further to ensure strict control, he explained that unlike epidemic, pandemic Influenza, is global in spread, spreads fast, difficult to track, causes substantial loss of life and the fear of rapid mutation of virus strain.
Noting that during the past three centuries, pandemics have occurred every 10 to 60 years, averaging every 24 years, Akeredolu explained that It is no indication that pandemics are becoming any more frequent, but that some of the conditions that foster the mutation of the influenza virus, such as the â€˜reservoirsâ€™ of domestic pigs and poultry, have increased greatly during recent decades.
He further noted the need for a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans and animals adding that the synergism achieved will advance health care for the 21st century and beyond by accelerating biomedical research discoveries, enhancing public health efficacy, expeditiously expanding the scientific knowledge base, and improving medical education and clinical care.
When properly implemented, he pointed out, â€œit will help protect and save untold millions of lives in our present and future generationsâ€.
Akeredolu who stressed the need to address emerging and remerging infections which he said contribute 70 per cent vector – borne called for collaboration between the Human medical doctors and Veterinary medical doctors in order to address issues concerning diseases that emanate from animal origin.
He said over 60 per cent of diseases that affects human have animal origin that is why we say there is a very thin line between the two sides of science animal health and human health that refers in rent times around the world is the wave of cooperation between animal and human health.
He explained that the compensation paid to affected farm owners was not just because their birds were affected but to encourage them to come back as well as build their capacity to be able to apply bio-security measures during infections. â€œTo date about 3,037 farmers and farms has received compensation.â€, he added.
He advised both producers and processors of bird, adding that the risk of infection lies in the preparation. â€œThe risk of getting infected lies on how a person handles the birds if they are sick, you donâ€™t touch them but call a veterinary doctors to handle it. For the people who consumes, they should act as surveillance outburst by reporting any sick or dead birds to the nearest animal health worker.â€
On whether Nigeria was ready at that time, he answered in the affirmative that Nigeria was ready in the sense that although first outbreak in Nigeria was in February 2006 but in 2005 government had come up with some funds to help the country set up some structures that subtle the infection any time it landed.