From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
A total of 164,473 birds have so far been killed by the ravaging Avian Influenza (bird flu) in farms across six local government areas of Delta State.
The Delta State Government confirmed the figure on Wednesday in Asaba at a news briefing.
Commissioner for Agriculture Julius Egbedi, addressing reporters, said the figure is conservative as most poultry farms affected by the disease were yet to officially report it.
Flanked by Commissioner for Information Charles Aniagwu and ministry officials, Egbedi said laboratory analysis indicated that the birds were being affected by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) strain.
He said the disease was first reported on June 2, adding that the ministry took samples to the Veterinary Institute in Jos for investigation where the influenza was confirmed.
According to him, farms in Udu, Sapele, Okpe, Oshimili South, Ughelli South and Ughelli North council areas have so far reported the disease.
‘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,’ he said.
On steps taken to mitigate the outbreak, Egbedi said veterinary officers have already embarked on the disinfection of affected farms and advised farmers not to do anything on the farms until it is properly healed.
‘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,’ he added.
He noted that the disease ‘is caused by a wild bird which had contacts with poultry birds. Our farmers should take necessary steps to prepare their farms.’
On possible succour for affected farms, Egbedi disclosed that farms with a bird population of less than 3,000 are entitled to palliatives, even as he stressed the need for farmers to take insurance policy as provided by the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Company (NAIC) in order to get support in case of eventualities.
‘However, we are going to make our report to higher authorities to see how to meet the farmers halfway,’ he added.
On his part, Aniagwu said the state government was already intervening to curtail the spread, saying that the government sympathised with the affected farms.
‘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,’ Aniagwu said.