By Festus Ahon
DELTA State Commissioner, Mr Julius Egbedi, Wednesday, said over 164,473 birds have so far been killed by the ravaging Avian Influenza popularly known as bird flu in farms across six local government areas of the State.
Egbedi who disclosed this while briefing newsmen on outbreak of bird influenza which is ravaging poultry farms, explained that the figure was conservative.
Noting that some poultry farms affected by the disease were yet to officially report it, he said Udu, Sapele, Okpe, Oshimili South, Ughelli South, and Ughelli North council areas have so far reported the disease.
He said laboratory analysis indicated that the birds were being affected by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) strain.
Egbedi who was flanked by the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu and ministry officials, said the disease was first reported on June 2, 2021.
The Agric Commissioner said the ministry took samples to the Veterinary Institute in Jos for investigation where the influenza was confirmed.
He said: “At the moment, 164,473 birds have been killed by avian influenza. This is what is officially reported, there might be others.
“We need to let our people know of this if not, it will engulf the entire state and lead to the collapse of the poultry industry”.
While urging affected farms not to restock until after three months, Egbedi said veterinary officers have already embarked on the disinfection of affected farms.
He said: “Also, all veterinary officers are to call for meetings in the various localities to sensitise the people, and make sure that affected birds do not find their way to the markets”.
Saying that the disease “is caused by wild bird which had contacts with poultry birds”, he said; “our farmers should take necessary steps to prepare their farms.”
On what the state is doing to mitigate the effects on the affected farms, Egbedi said farms with bird populations of less than 3,000 are entitled to palliatives.
He stressed the need for farmers to take insurance police as provided by the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Company, NAIC in order to get support in case of eventualities.
He said: “However, we are going to make our report to higher authorities to see how to meet the farmers halfway”.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu said the State government sympathized with the affected farms, adding that the government was already intervening with a view to curtailing the spread
Aniagwu said: “Government will meet them halfway because their action is helping to curb unemployment. We want to sustain agricultural practice and poultry production, in particular, in the state”.