Chickens in north Nigeria with H5N1

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    Martin W

      Chickens in farms in north Nigeria just tested positive for H5N1. Wild birds likely to get blame for spreading H5N1 to Nigeria. No matter that Nigeria not a (major) destination for ducks from areas hit with H5N1 before autumn. Smuggling of poultry should be investigated here.

      High duties create an incentive to avoid tariff payments. Common illicit practices include under-invoicing, "round-tripping" foreign exchange, and smuggling… When the level of illicit, undocumented imports for particular products such as frozen chicken exceed that of legal imports, (this before Nigeria banned chicken imports; demand for chickens may be higher since, encouraging smuggling if so)

      Infected chickens in battery cages; so surely unlikely to have contact with outside world, inc wild birds.

      Thousands of bird deaths have also been reported in Kano state, which borders Kaduna. The federal ministries of health and agriculture have not provided information on how many birds have died or in which areas exactly. In Kano city, poultry farmers were trying to sell chickens at less than half the normal price, including from farms where birds have been dying. "I am confused. I lost 10 birds yesterday on my little farm and I cannot afford to lose more, so I came to the market to dispose of many of my birds at these ridiculous prices," said Ismail Musa. – so, again, might cheap chickens have been smuggled into Nigeria?


        For my further reading and personal edification..,

        Where can one find concise, accurate descriptions of known migratory bird flight paths?

        I agree that there needs to be more intelligent discussion of how migratory birds might be contributing to this epidemic. Just a blanket pronouncement that wild birds to blame is not enough.

        I’d also think that poultry, zoo, fighting, or pet bird trade might not answer the whole question.

        There logically seems to be so many paths for a virus to move that it looks very difficult to isolate the truth form the conjecture. It would be interesting to follow the lineage of one strain of virus along it’s path from some obscure farm in China to a like farm in Nigeria.., How many chicken sneezes, fecal boot contaminations, wild bird peckings, flying hours, etc., etc., are involved.

        Nigeria is a bit off the beaten path, but there are those who state that it may be, or is on migratory flight paths. Just say I’m from missouri and I need to see for myself..,



        Martin W

          There are no ready sources that I know of (asked this question by science journalist yesterday; he’s looked at some migration routes etc, but likewise found no ideal source of info). I earlier gave partial answer re flyways in email to same journo, which I posted to thread at: Migration Flyways V briefly here (I’ll add a bit more to that thread):

          Nigeria is on migration flight paths, but for birds from Europe – ie west of areas known to have H5N1 before birds migrate. Few areas of land on the planet are not on flight paths. You live in the US, so you are on or near flight paths (with higher densities over Missouri than over many places). Wild birds likely migrate right over your house. But you’re not on flight paths of birds from areas known to have H5N1

          Martin W

            email from Nial Moores of Birds Korea:

            Species like Garganey can switch wintering areas from India to eastern Africa dependent on wetland availability, according to Bird families of the World. However, as Martin suggests most logical is that Garganey from western Europe migrate to western Africa, leaving Europe in ca October and returning in late March.

            Is this correct: this latest outbreak is in western Africa in mid-winter, months after wild birds from western Europe (a region without H5N1) migrated there; in chicken battery farms. Those suggesting wild birds are at the cause of spread should first identify (with supporting data) which species were responsible (birds from affected regions like Turkey???, arriving in Nigeria in late January as virus so virulent: which species? None); explain why outbreaks in wild birds have not been detected there (possible?); and explain the exact mechanism how wild birds came to infect poultry (possible?).

            Concentrations of poultry and caged birds, time and time again, have been shown to be the viral factories for H5N1,and Nigeria has been ramping up its poultry production with the aim of becoming a net exporter. At least as late as 2002, local producers were worried about the amount of illegal poultry imports/trade (see URL below).

            Large-scale concentrations of poultry often lead to environmental contamination (run off and manure heaps), and provide the only logical hypothesis for infection of non-migratory scavenging wild birds. Is it supposed to be more rational that wild ducks somehow fly into the chicken pens, excrete there without being noticed so that they infect the poor poultry, and then fly off again?

            In 35 years of birding I have seen one wild duck in a free-range chicken pen once – on an offshore island in Korea where there was no other duck habitat, not near some wetland where there would be plenty of natural food available for wetland species without the risk of being hunted by people. It does just not make common sense, and is not supported by any evidence – so why even start to make such an assumption before considering movement of poultry first, caged bird trade second.

            Need to repeat too, sadly how can anyone ever anywhere disprove it was wild birds? There are migratory birds in most nations; with birds moving at all times of the year. Therefore people who want to believe that spread into Africa (or elsewhere) of H5N1 was by wild birds will easily find something to convince themselves – whatever evidence is provided to the contrary or not.

            It therefore seems more than a little time-wasting to repeatedly provide detailed information each time to such persons and then to have such advice pretty much ignored, the original story written, original line taken, even sometimes with the comment that bird conservationists are too defensive to see the truth. This is a large part of what has been so disappointing and frustrating about this whole saga.

            Please, show me the asymptomatic Garganey with HPAI H5N1 in Nigeria; show me other infected Garganey elsewhere; show me Garganey having contact with chickens, and then I promise I will invest the time looking for data on Garganey movements for you. Otherwise, best to look at poultry and caged bird trade first –
            General note on trade:
            Google search using words Nigeria poultry Import
            which talks of illegal imports.

            China and Nigeria have many trade links and recently boosted trade initiatives. Nigeria has trade with many other nations etc etc. Eliminate those, then lets talk about the hypothetical role of wild birds in spread to Africa.


              As I mentioned in my post to your “Migration routes” thread, time would be required to mingle the infected populations

              It seems like the amount of time necessary would be on the order of years. I.e., several migration cycles to allow the intermingling needed.

              It would seem that poultry smuggling could be more at fault. Poultry or pet birds?



              Martin W

                Hi Neil:

                Well, we’re in realm of guesswork I think – Nigerian outbreak is new.

                But I suspect poultry; Nigeria clamped down on poultry imports to guard against H5N1 and, ironically, perhaps so boosted demand for smuggled birds.
                (This outbreak on battery farm; if they couldn’t supply all demand, maybe turned to outside source.)

                More info needed.
                But for spread to nw China, thence across Russia to e Europe, I’m more confident re poultry trade/smuggling (even Moscow Zoo’s chief vet said he thought smuggling).


                Martin W
                  Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) — Nigeria blamed smugglers for bird-flu infections that have spread to at least four farms, as authorities in Greece and Bulgaria probe possible outbreaks of the lethal H5N1 virus strain, the first in the European Union.

                  The “activities of illegal importers and smugglers of pets and birds” brought the virus to Nigeria, Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello said yesterday as the virus was found on three more farms. The World Organization for Animal Health said migratory birds most likely introduced the disease, which killed 40,000 fowl in an initial outbreak in Nigeria that began a month ago.



                    We need your expertise in this matter at our new bulletin board:


                    Martin W

                      Rather odd situation, with Deborah MacKenzie of New Scientist – now gungh-ho re blaming wild birds for spreading H5N1 it seems (see also thread New Scientist dodgy re H5N1 spread to Europe – has confidently written of wild ducks carrying H5N1 to Nigeria, even though (as yet) not one wild bird in Africa has tested positive for H5N1.

                      Nial Moores of Birds Korea sent Deborah an email, questioning this; cc’d me, and Deborah has replied, likewise including me among recipients. Interesting email from her – indeed plausible that ducks from H5N1 hit areas in summer may have arrived in Nigeria for winter.

                      But, well, here’s email I’ve sent her:

                      Thanks for the email; glad you are willing to look at this in some detail. However, your argument is not solid. And, curiously, you ignore the absence of H5N1 across a swathe of land, from Iran east to Japan, where most of north Asia’s waterbirds winter, yet there are no outbreaks in migratory wetland birds. Hong Kong is a notable site here: has some 50,000 waterbirds, including pintail (garganey pass through on migration): not one healthy wild bird has tested positive, among over 16,000 [by some reports; PNAS for some reason gives 13,000 I think, without re-checking.] Currently getting H5N1 in birds, inc poultry; maybe after higher poultry demand at Chinese New Year; and mentioning this, seen report that Nigerian smuggling can increase around Hajj. Hong Kong is at a crossroads for migrants in southern China, right at the epicentre of H5N1 outbreaks. Had H5N1 in birds, inc two urban parks (ornamental waterfowl, at least 2 wild little egrets, which likely residents). So, blithely ignoring not easy. Further, PNAS paper is overall strongly counter to ideas wild birds spread H5N1. Witness regional forms of H5N1: if wild birds could indeed carry and introduce to poultry (and do so readily), why do we see these? It seems curious logic to say poultry trade spreads over short distances, but wild birds over long range.

                      There is long distance trade, inc smuggling – cf large batch of smuggled poultry from China arriving in Italy. "one detects the presence of the virus chiefly because it causes outbreaks in poultry if the wild birds contact them" – wild birds contact poultry? Where? [maybe it does happen in Nigeria – but people hunt waterbirds there, so might figure wild birds avoid humans as much as possible] "The ducks themselves, at least those that made it through migration, dont die of it, so you wont see it that way." – questionable; are ducks that die of it, plus can get significant death rates – very high in Qinghai – in birds sharing wetlands with them. "A very low prevalence of sampling, if there is even that, cannot prove absence," No need for sampling at Qinghai – the virus made its presence very clearly known. Elsewhere, it is scarce or rare in wild; get some die-offs but need monitoring to find them.. "Flu is highly contagious. It spreads from bird to bird." Ah, now here’s an important one. You refer to "flu" – and make this rather casual statement. Regular wild bird flus do indeed seem highly contagious, among waterbirds (with caveats; seasonal changes, can get variations depending on bird type). But, evidence is that H5N1 in wild birds is not highly contagious. Qinghai the exception. But otherwise, we don’t see H5N1 readily spreading among wild birds. Hong Kong again – has had dead waterbirds found at/near wetland with the waterbirds, but no spread. (Just lately, a dead little egret a few km from Deep Bay.) Mongolia’s Erkhel – "the disease appeared self-limiting in wild birds", researchers had to look hard to find it., and then o only in dead birds Thailand openbill storks – only few amongst large numbers of birds Romania: infected swans on ponds did not infect other waterbirds sharing ponds (this by lack of deaths, also as several of these birds tested)

                      Romanian swans excreting low amounts of virus. Webster’s ducks with H5N1 that didn’t readily kill them likewise excreted low amounts; High amounts respiratory tracts – but ducks not prone to sneezing/French kissing.

                      "Selling their birds off at market is what they are reportedly doing even now." – so, do you think others with infected birds, or near infected birds, might have sold them off at markets? To people from non-infected areas. Nigeria had banned poultry imports; yet domestic demand surely still there. Surely tempting to smuggle in birds at bargain prices.

                      "especially the Z genotype that has been responsible for virtually all commercial poultry outbreaks in east Asia" – This is the Z genotype. One of its variants, but it’s Z. " birds at Poyang Lake in southeast China in March, some of which migrated to Qinghai." – Which ones migrated this way? I know of none that migrate Poyang to Qinghai. I’ve studied some of the Poyang winter birds on migration along east coast of China (can be certain re Siberian cranes) – a long way from Qinghai. [I’ve asked Guan Yi and Robert Webster just which species they say migrated; so far, just told "migratory ducks". Detail is important with virology; also important here re wild birds.]

                      "timing of the outbreaks in Siberia, Turkey, the Black Sea and Nigeria exactly fit the known movements of some species" Not so with the timing of the outbreaks in Siberia. Link from Qinghai to Siberia doesn’t work: especially timing, in July, when birds from Qinghai not migrating north [many of geese flightless at this time]

                      "They are kicking birds around because they are rural people, that is how that culture treats animals," – how astonishingly patronising. I have seen rural people interacting with wild birds; maybe hunt n trap and so on, but never this. New Scientist not read there, perhaps, but New Sci taken as authoritative, reaches newspapers and other media

                      "Were there geese, which do die of this virus, at Poyang as there were at Qinghai?" – Yes, many thousands, including much of world population of swan goose. Also geese, cranes etc. All sharing shallow wetlands, at high densities.

                      "the Poyang and Qinghai viruses differ from any that have ever been seen in poultry in China." By no means all poultry in China have been tested. Witness PNAS – north China, inc between Poyang and Qinghai, just a blank on the map. I’ve asked Guan Yi; they lack data. So, you are only making guesses re virus in poultry n China. The team found 4 distinct forms in mainland China (seen Guan mention 250 strains); how to be certain a form in north isn’t as per Qinghai?

                      "The commercial transport of poultry should transport genotypes pretty much at random – smugglers dont genotype infected birds before they ship" – Why at random? If birds from n China to Russia/Kazakhstan, and then onwards by transport links such as railway – and the timings indeed fit this pattern too – would be same strain.

                      "the only spread long distance so far has coincided with migratory pathways, " Not so; has been spread to Indonesia, Tibet (one case traced to poultry shipped 1500km, Lanzhou to Lhasa), more recently the spread to Russia and so on. Again, it baffles me why this notion re long distance spread by wild birds, short distance within poultry trade. This is not borne out by bulk of PNAS paper – notice re an introduction to Vietnam, evidently by transport from China. But, convenient for officials. [cf with foot n mouth; reached continent from UK – but there, no flying cows as convenient scapegoats]

                      Martin W

                        from Richard Thomas of Birdlife International:

                        1) I believe I’m correct that one of the two dead ducks with H5N1 in Turkey was a Pintail.

                        2) Regarding the Nigerian outbreak: the commercial poultry farm where the disease was first reported is some 150 km from the (can’t recall spelling!) Hadeja-xxx wetlands. Between the two places are flu-free farms.

                        Testing of wild birds for H5N1 at the wetlands took place last October – all with negative results. BirdLife has a local NGO Partner in Nigeria who monitor the wetlands and they have seen no die-offs of wild birds.

                        3) We have been told that prior to the 2004 import ban on poultry imports to Nigeria, Day-Old-Chicks arrived by air at Kanu. The Agriculture Minister, Adamu Bello, said at a press conference a day or two ago that illegal imports from China, Turkey and elsewhere arrive daily in the country.

                        4) The Nigerian outbreak, whilst disasterous for Nigeria and its people, is the best opportunity the world has yet had for identifying the vector by which the disease is being moved around the world. It would be an international tragedy if a thorough and balanced investigation of all possible vectors was not carried out as a matter of extreme urgency; the opportunity must not be wasted. Already we have seen FAO and WHO leaning towards wild birds as the cause, but this doesn’t appear to be the most plausible explanation.

                        Martin W
                          Cheikh Sadibou Fall, co-ordinator of the national anti-bird flu committee in Senegal, mainland Africa’s most westerly country, said they were on the alert. "We will study the cases to see whether migratory birds will spread the virus, and take appropriate measures … for the time being, we are on alert against any suspect cases of dead birds,"he said. Celia Abolnik, a senior researcher at South Africa’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, said the institute was expecting samples for testing soon from live waterfowl in Malawi, Sudan and Kenya.

                          – "take appropriate measures" ? I’m afraid that seems rather sinister to me. So, hope wild bird tests prove negative – but with all the poultry infections in Nigeria, will surely be infected wild birds around. While in Nigeria:

                          Market sellers in northern Nigeria are doing a roaring trade in chickens which died from a mystery infection, despite fears of a deadly strain of bird flu, traders said on Wednesday.

                          When H5N1 reached Russia, I posted on a forum notions re H5N1 infections in and near a poultry area (in northwest China? – for instance, northern Xinjiang which had big outbreak in farm geese) might lead to fall in prices, and perhaps then trade of birds to areas that had no bird flu. I was ridiculed for this. And yet, still seems plausible to me. Infections in an area, prices fall; traders/farmers still want to sell birds – especially if compensation inadequate, and fear having flocks destroyed – and so birds sold on, moving H5N1 along trade routes. If so, maybe not too ridiculous to suggest that places that had seemed far from H5N1 might not have been over concerned about it. Webster et al in PNAS found that apparently healthy chickens could be infected – maybe as protected by another flu form, maybe as poor vaccines used. [What of vaccines; are they also smuggled? – been smuggled to Thailand, but I don’t know re to Russia, Europe, even Nigeria]

                          Martin W

                            CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA

                            REPORT FOR THE FIRST
                            HALF OF 2005

                            NOVEMBER 18, 2005

                            “Other factors were the official initiatives, including the Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS), jointly implemented with the Food and
                            Agricultural Organization (FAO); subsidy on fertilizer and zero tariffs on imported agro-chemicals; and the tightening of controls on illegal import of agricultural products, for example, poultry products and rice.”



                              I was intrigued by the comments from Bird Life International – Nigeria would be one of the worst places in the world to try to establish the origin of the virus. There are too many potential pathways of introduction to be sure of the origin and the late recognition of the disease in poultry complicates this further.

                              I must admit I am finding the whole argument re role of wild birds a bit tedious.

                              There is now a strain of H5N1 virus capable of infecting poultry and a range of wild birds that has spread across Eurasia and extended to Africa. The relative contribution of wild birds and trade in the movement of this virus is almost irrelevant because precautions will have to be taken to prevent contact between both populations of birds through enhanced biosecurity. If contact cannot be avoided (as with scavenging chickens) then the only option is to use vaccination as a barrier to infection. Imperfect? Yes but the best available short of eliminating this sector vital to the economic well being of the rural poor.

                              Virus transfer in both directions between poultry and wild birds can occur and any control program that does not recognise the potential risks from both sectors will fail.


                              Les Sims

                              Martin W

                                It’s tedious to have to keep repeating arguments re wild birds not being major carriers of H5N1;

                                Tedious to continually find wild birds blamed, invariably with scant evidence (as yet, not one H5N1 positive wild bird in Africa);

                                Tedious that even when a paper shows poultry trade is by far most important for sustaining and spreading H5N1, it’s taken as evidence wild birds are important vectors;

                                Tedious that for many officials, wild birds are so quickly and readily blamed (round up all the usual suspects).

                                And yet, it’s important as there are conservation implications, in turn with implications for people.

                                For to some officials, it now appears “biosecurity” should involve clearing/culling wild birds, by straightforward hunting, as well as deterring breeding, even draining wetlands. (Mao tried wiping out “sparrows” in China as they were supposedly pests; proved a major blunder.)

                                Unnecessary fear has been stirred far too widely.

                                So yes, it’s tedious, it’s frustrating.
                                But those wild birds were not responsible for creating the strains of H5N1, yet directly and indirectly wild birds can become victims;
                                wild birds have no voice of their own. (Nor any huge, powerful lobby group behind them.)


                                Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/13 01:03

                                Martin W
                                  Nigeria is not a gigantic poultry producer. Nigeria’s poultry industry is very low. Until recently, 80 per cent of the chicken we ate in Nigeria were imported. It is now we are just beginning to build up, even then, we are still far away from where we are supposed to get to.
                                  Lately, we had a problem of lack of parent stock, therefore, we do not have enough hatchable eggs for our poultry. Last Christmas, there was a huge shortage of chicken in Nigeria. Although, we are very good eaters, we are not producers.

                                  Nigeria’s not prepared for a bird flu pandemic —Emmanuel Ijewere

                                  “If it’s not wild birds, it will be difficult to understand,” Domenech [of FAO] said. “There is no real trade between the Middle East and Asia and Nigeria.”


                                  China and Nigeria have signed a series of agreements on trade, economic and technical cooperation, as well as on promotion and protection of mutual investment and so on.

                                  During 1999 to 2004, bilateral trade volume has increased remarkably from US$ 578 million to US$ 1.5 billion (till Sep. 2004). China’s main exports to Nigeria are light-industrial, mechanical, and electrical products, and its imports from Nigeria are oil products, timber and agricultural products among others.

                                  Up to now, more than 67 Chinese company invested into Nigeria in the area of telecommunication, civil engineering project, steel & power, motorcycle assembling and fishing etc, with an outstanding investment amount of US$ 88.6 million. Apart from the above, the coming cooperation in oil exploration and exploitation will attract around US$ 1 billion into Nigeria. There are still more investment projects under negotiation.

                                  Regarding Civil Engineering Contract Project, more than 15 Chinese corporations are engaged in around 50 projects with a total amount of US$ 1.5 billion.

                                  From 2002, Chinese government has provided RMB111.4 million gratuitous assistance to Nigeria including rural water supply project, anti-malaria drugs and other relief goods. Under TCDC training course, more than 200 Nigerian have been trained in China on several subjects. In accordance with the Agreement between FAO, Nigerian and Chinese Government, 391 Chinese agriculture experts are serving in Nigeria now.


                                  Couldn’t readily find re Nigeria-Turkey trade links, say; but still – makes me wonder if Joseph D is so authoritative here.

                                  Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/13 09:41

                                  Martin W

                                    from Birdlife International (news release):

                                    Outbreaks in Nigeria suggest controls on international poultry movements
                                    are widely flouted

                                    The recent outbreak of H5N1 avian ‘flu in Nigeria show that poultry
                                    movements can cause the deadly virus to jump across countries and even
                                    continents. With poor enforcement of controls already blamed for
                                    outbreaks in China, South East Asia and Turkey, the Nigerian outbreak
                                    further demonstrates that lapses in biosecurity are the major reason for
                                    avian ‘flu’s continuing spread around the world.

                                    Whilst the precise nature of the outbreak is unknown, it seems more than
                                    likely that the virus arrived through infected poultry brought into the
                                    country in defiance of Nigeria’s import controls. Speaking at a press
                                    conference, Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, Adamu Bello, said “Birds
                                    come every day from China, Turkey, into Nigeria, and from Europe and
                                    also from Latin America. So Nigeria is exposed. Illegal importation of
                                    poultry by people who have farms, bringing in poultry from places and
                                    smuggling them in…could also have been a cause.”

                                    Mr Bello was also reported by Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper group as
                                    saying: “We think someone may have imported or smuggled in contaminated

                                    Large scale commercial poultry farms need a regular supply of day old
                                    chicks, and this has created a global trade in supplying the industry in
                                    countries such as Nigeria, which are unable to undertake all the stages
                                    of commercial production. Contesting the ban on imports of day-old stock
                                    earlier in 2005, a poultry industry spokesman said “Nigeria does not
                                    possess the temperature, weather conditions and much-needed technology
                                    to produce Grand Parent stock (day old chickens) now, which is the life
                                    wire of poultry business.”

                                    “Globalisation has turned the chicken into the world’s number one
                                    migratory bird species” said Leon Bennun, Director of Science of
                                    BirdLife International. “Movements of chickens around the world take
                                    place 365 days a year, unlike the seasonal migrations of wild birds”,
                                    Bennun added.

                                    “It is important that strict biosecurity measures are imposed to stop
                                    further spread not only within Nigeria but also to neighbouring
                                    countries”, says Bennun.

                                    However BirdLife is concerned that the authorities in Nigeria receive
                                    appropriate support and advice from the international agencies managing
                                    avian ‘flu and that resources are targeted effectively.

                                    It is extraordinary, given the strong circumstantial evidence
                                    implicating illegal poultry movements, and the repeated opinion of
                                    Agriculture Minister Bello, that some representatives of the UN Food and
                                    Agriculture Organisation have announced that wild migratory birds are
                                    the source of the outbreak.

                                    One senior FAO representative has even been quoted in the press as
                                    saying: “If it’s not wild birds, it will be difficult to understand.
                                    There is no real trade between the Middle East and Asia and Nigeria.”
                                    Yet according to the websites of China’s embassy in Nigeria and their
                                    Ministry of Commerce,”the trade volume between the two countries in 2003
                                    reached US$ 1.86 billion,” and has continued to grow so that “Nigeria is
                                    now China’s second largest export market and fourth largest trade
                                    partner in Africa”.

                                    Nigeria is a major oil producing nation, and with around 25 percent of
                                    the population of Africa within its borders to provide a market for
                                    imports, it is increasingly being sought out as a trading partner. The
                                    largest-scale industrial poultry production in Africa is concentrated
                                    within Nigeria’s northern states. If the global trade in poultry is
                                    spreading avian ‘flu, it was predictable that it would hit Nigeria
                                    before other African countries.

                                    “Perhaps the time has come for an independent inquiry into the spread of
                                    H5N1 over the past few years,” says Bennun. “This could help the world
                                    to learn lessons on what could have been done differently to halt the
                                    spread of the disease and help to stop further outbreaks.”


                                      The following link to the FAO website (beware, very large file) provides a reasonably balanced assessment of the Nigerian situation.



                                      Les Sims

                                      Martin W

                                        Thanks, Les

                                        Just downloaded and had quick read.
                                        For anyone not wanting to do so, it includes:

                                        In favour of the wild bird introduction hypothesis, it is noteworthy that the outbreak site in Nigeria is located at southern edge of the major Chad basin including the Hadejjia-Nguru wetland area, both considered as major wintering areas in the region for long-distance migrant species coming from Europe and Russia, including palearctic ducks. Two migrant species coming from Europe and Russia: Pintails (Anas acuta) and Garganeys (Anas querquedula), are known to overwinter in considerable numbers in Northern Nigeria in the Hadejjia-Nguru and Chad basin Wetlands.

                                        The introduction of the disease through illegal trade cannot be excluded. The introduction could have happened through illegal importations of poultry or more likely poultry products. No data are available at the moment to confirm or rule out this possibility.

                                        After this, fair amount of info on migratory birds, especially pintail and garganey.
                                        Mentions testing is underway; but of course, with H5N1 now present, finding wild birds with H5N1 in affected areas surely doesn’t prove they brought it in.

                                        And yet, very little regarding Nigeria’s poultry trade. Even though mentions that poultry production has declined, yet demand has increased (so, presumably, more incentive for smuggling – especially with govt clamping down on imports).
                                        No mention, say, of FAO warning re day-old chick imports by air in 2004; nor even of Nigerian govt having recently said smuggling was likely cause of H5N1 being introduced.


                                          I’m beginning to see the argument AGAINST wild birds being the PRIME vector in the spread of H5N1 as being highly plausible.

                                          Recent news on trade (illegal) of starter chicks in Nigeria just re-inforces the argument.

                                          Maybe the old adage about the enemy is appropot:

                                          “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”


                                            Could it be, also, that the powers that be (U.N., FAO, OEI, World Bank, et. al..,) prefer NOT to target poultry trade so as to not tip the apple card of economic interests of member states? It’s political and economic suicide to bite the hand that feeds you, eh?

                                            Therefore, wild birds who have no advocate, nor direct financial effect on economic trade get the blame.

                                            The homogeneous nature of the genotype of H5N1 being circulated suggests two possibilties. First, the vector is a pure subtype maintained by poultry trade, or second, is a robust subtype that infects without point mutations over very long distances. Given the information I’ve read on mutations in virri is seems less possible that the H5N1 we see in the majority of isolates being posted (discussed by Dr. Niman) would be so homogeneous if they were being vectored by a purely natural process such as wild bird migration.

                                            Chick transport is akin to bottling a vaccine. Make millions of copies of it, put them in “sterile” containers, and ship around the world..,

                                            Martin W

                                              Might guess the virus would change if migration – notably, towards a less virulent strain.

                                              from Richard Thomas of Birdlife, re the FAO guff:

                                              I’m rather surprised to see someone describe this as a “reasonably balanced assessment of the Nigerian situation.”

                                              It somehow fails to mention several relevant facts, such as the 150 km from the first affected farm to the Hadeja-Nguru wetlands; the presence of “flu-free” farms between the wetlands and the farm; the flu-free farm less than 5 km from the first affected farm with, wait for it: ostriches in the dangerous open air; the testing of wild birds at Hadeja-Nguru last October – all of them negative; nor the lack of die-offs in wild birds reported there this winter.

                                              Despite the Agriculture Minister saying several times the virus arrived with imported poultry, all we get is one brief paragraph:

                                              “The introduction of the disease through illegal trade cannot be excluded. The introduction could have happened through illegal importations of poultry or more likely poultry products. No data are available at the moment to confirm or rule out this possibility.”

                                              No data available? That’s surprising. Has the government’s Special Programme on Food Security (launched in January 2002 and jointly implemented with the FAO) really not looked into this issue?

                                              The programme includes:

                                              • The establishment of Trans-border Animal Disease Information Implementation (Phase 1 and Phase II)
                                              • The establishment of a Ministerial Animal Disease Emergency Committee.


                                              Martin W

                                                From report on Nigerial poultry trade in 2002:

                                                At present, a majority of the poultry meat imported into Nigeria enters the country illegally and evades duty payment. Most imported frozen poultry are being supplied by European exporters, such as the Netherlands, France and Belgium. U.S. poultry meat comes enters this market occasionally. Prior to the ban, legal poultry imports were discouraged by the GON’s decision to increase the duty from 55 percent to 75 percent in January 2001. Nigerian traders routinely buy from importers situated in neighboring countries. Despite the large import volumes of frozen poultry in CY2001, the Nigerian Customs Service has no record of any importer who shipped products legally and paid the required duty. Frozen poultry enter through Nigerian borders without official payment of duties. Additional costs are however, incurred in unofficial payments to Nigerian border officials (unofficial payments have increased following the announcement of the ban). After purchasing at a cold storage facility in the neighboring country, boxes of chicken are ferried across the border on the heads of laborers. After clearing the border point, the chicken is reloaded onto trucks or other vehicles and moved to interior consumption points. Imported chicken often is transported and handled without refrigeration, with food quality and safety becoming a major concern.


                                                The recent outbreak of bird flu in the country must not be seen in isolation but in line with other variables confronting the poultry sector in the country. The pigeon that brought the disease to the country is traceable to Canada. Economic sabotage cannot be ruled out in the whole saga. The infection is found at just two poultries in Kano and Kaduna States. The north produces only two per cent of total chicken consumption in the country. The occurrence in an area that produces two per cent should not be made to affect other areas where the incident is yet to be recorded. The clamour by some people that our borders should be thrown open to importation of chickens is very suspicious. These are people who profit from smuggling of poultry products into the country. They want to cause confusion in the country and create a panicky situation. They are not happy with the progress Nigeria is recording in the area of chicken production. In countries that have recorded bird flu, it is only the poultries affected that would be quarantined and the affected birds killed and buried. Records have shown that the birds from the Kano and Kaduna cases were not from registered hatcheries. The outbreak must have come as a result of unprofessional poultry farming practice. If you breed chickens, ducks, turkey etc with animals such as pigs, the rate of infection is high. Also, poultry farm practice in which chickens, ducks etc are reared in an enclosure that have no barriers from where human beings live is dangerous. It is advisable that people do not buy chickens and other poultry product from open markets or across the country’s border because the susceptibility to the disease is high. They should buy from registered hatcheries. This will guarantee quality. Currently, Nigeria supplies the bulk of poultry need in West Africa despite the consumption of two million chickens daily in the country.

                                                Bird flu, a sabotage – Badmus The National Chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Chief Olatunde Badmus, spoke with our correspondent, TUNDE ODESOLA, on the recent outbreak of Bird Flu in the country

                                                Martin W

                                                  Poultry, Not Wild Birds, Most Often Carries Deadly Avian Flu to Africa

                                                  By David Brown
                                                  Washington Post Staff Writer
                                                  Thursday, February 16, 2006

                                                  The lethal strain of H5N1 bird flu found in Nigeria this month probably got there in poultry and not through the movement of wild birds, according to migratory-bird experts and several lines of circumstantial evidence.

                                                  The first Nigerian cases were found at a commercial farm with 46,000 chickens, not among backyard flocks that would have greater contact with wild birds. Nigeria imports more than a million chicks a year from countries that include Turkey, where H5N1 appeared last fall, and China, where it has circulated for a decade.

                                                  Furthermore, the infected flocks in two of Nigeria’s northern states are not near wetlands where migratory birds spend the winter. There are no reports of waterfowl die-offs like those in Asia and Eastern Europe. The few wild species known to occasionally harbor H5N1 arrived months ago and are about to leave.

                                                  If it turns out that trade, not nature, was responsible for introducing H5N1 to Africa, better control of trade in domesticated birds may be able to limit the virus’s spread there and on other continents, public health experts said.

                                                  “If you put all the possible factors in perspective, we wouldn’t jump to the conclusion as others do that it was wild birds that brought it,” said Ward Hagemeijer, an ornithologist at Wetlands International, a Dutch conservation organization.

                                                  William B. Karesh, a veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, said: “I would never rule out wild birds. But I think we have to look at the most probable routes, and the most probable route would be poultry. How did it skip the whole Nile Delta and get to Nigeria? That kind of bothers me. Common sense would dictate that it should be all over Egypt by now.”

                                                  The spread of H5N1 by wild birds “is a horrible assumption that a lot of people are making,” agreed Peter Marra, an ecologist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. “There is no question that migratory birds are playing a role, but they are not the main players.”

                                                  Marra said more attention should be given to the legal — and illegal — movement of poultry and pet-trade birds because “that is where you can actually do something about it.”

                                                  Some of this reasoning appears to have support in Nigeria, as well.

                                                  The Guardian, a daily newspaper published in Lagos, recently quoted the country’s agriculture minister, Adamu Bello, as saying, “We think someone may have imported or smuggled in contaminated birds.”

                                                  In 2002, Nigeria imported 1.2 million chickens, according to statistics on the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Web site. Nearly all the birds were day-old chicks.

                                                  China, Nigeria and the FAO signed a $22.7 million agreement in March 2003 to have 520 Chinese agriculture experts, including poultry technicians, help Nigerian farmers. Nigeria also imported live birds from China until January 2004, when the trade was banned because of bird flu outbreaks in Asia.

                                                  Despite the import ban, numerous reports say chickens continue to come in from China. At a news conference last week, Bello said that “birds come every day from China, Turkey . . . so Nigeria is exposed,” according to a newspaper report.

                                                  In a study published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team led by two Chinese researchers reported that a survey of more than 50,000 birds in live-poultry markets there found 1 percent were infected with H5N1 virus.

                                                  The researchers also sampled about 13,000 migratory birds and found that six were carrying H5N1 and did not appear to be ill — evidence that healthy migrants may be able to carry the microbe long distances.

                                                  The genetic diversity in the virus samples from domestic chickens led the researchers to deduce that “H5N1 virus is perpetuated in poultry largely through the movement of poultry and poultry products, rather than by . . . migrating birds.”

                                                  Although no H5N1 has been found in wild birds in West Africa, elsewhere the virus has been found in three duck species that spend winter in Africa. They are the garganey, the northern pintail and the northern shoveller — about 3.5 million birds in all — said Alex Kaat of Wetlands International.

                                                  None of the wintering places are close to the chicken outbreaks, however, Kaat said.


                                                    Dear Martin,

                                                    I do not know how an H5N1 virus got into Nigeria but ruling out wild birds as a possible source on the basis that the disease was reported first in a large farm ignores what has happened in many other newly infected countries.

                                                    Finding the disease first in a large poultry farm does not mean that these were the first poultry infected/affected.

                                                    Reports of infection with H5N1 viruses often only emerge when there is a major die off in a commercial farm and not when poultry die in village flocks where mortalities from other causes occur regularly and the lower stocking density means that the disease may only affect a small part of the flock (not most poultry as it does in large commercial farms). Iin Malaysian backyard farms in 2004 the average mortality rate was just over 5%. We also know that many cases in smallholdings go undiagnosed based on the fact that detection of human cases in Asia often precedes detection in poultry in the household or village.

                                                    In addition, absence of data on farms.villages in the 150 km from the inland delta should not be assumed to mean there is lack of infection or disease in this zone.

                                                    Evidence for the role of both trade and wild birds in bringing the virus to Nigeria will remain circumstantial and both possibilities need to be explored, although, as mentioned previously, Nigeria would be one of the worst places in the world to try to do this analysis given the large volumes of illegal trade, the time lag from initial suspcion to diagnosis and limited veterinary capacity.

                                                    The presence of virus in wild swans in multiple countries in western Europe provides sufficient evidence to show that under certain circumstances wild birds can move highly pathogenic H5N1 virus over considerable distances. They may well be victims but that doesn’t mean they (or possibly other wild birds that infect the swans) aren’t involved in moving the virus over borders. This is probably the best evidence available for wild bird movement of virus since the Mongolian cases.

                                                    So far this dispersal of virus to Western Europe has not resulted in any cases in poultry but eventually one will occur – most likey via contaminated water, not direct contact, or perhaps via an intermediate non-migratory feral bird which can be infected or even act as a mechanical vector to transfer virus over a short distance.

                                                    I am not blaming wild birds for all the spread of H5N1 avian influenza. Trade with infected places is still the key means of spread especially once a virus is established in an area but care needs to be taken not to rule out wild birds as possible vectors on the basis of imperfect information.

                                                    We also need to be realistic about the capacity to prevent smuggling of poultry and other birds. If there are economic incentives to smuggle (and rampant corruption) then there will be smuggling. For a number of countries all we can do is to factor this into the equation when developing disease prevention strategies for the industry and minimise the risks arising from this practice.


                                                    Les Sims

                                                    Martin W

                                                      Dear Les:

                                                      thanks, yes; I agree. But the Post article brings some balance, which I believe was not present in FAO report (FAO at high levels seems set on blaming wild birds).

                                                      Tho as to swans likely causing infections in poultry: maybe wait n see.
                                                      Infected swans in Romania didn’t infect other waterbirds they shared ponds with (these birds looked healthy; several tested and negative).
                                                      Maybe significant they excreted low amounts of virus.

                                                      Seen re problems in Nigeria perhaps dating back to Dec, maybe on small farms. (But still, no problems evident w waterbirds)


                                                      Martin W

                                                        Just had message re Kano airport, north Nigeria, being important for wildlife trade/smuggling, inc parrots.

                                                        eg, see:
                                                        in German (different article):

                                                        I guess parrots will be in markets (in Nigeria) where also poultry traded – rather as I’ve seen in southern China.

                                                        Any measures, then, to look extra hard in case smuggled parrots etc coming from Nigeria?

                                                        Martin W

                                                          Panic, Losses As Bird Flu Strikes – article in Daily Champion (Lagos) February 16, 2006
                                                          Posted to the web February 16, 2006
                                                          by John Shiklam


                                                          The outbreak of the deadly bird flu in Kaduna State last week, has thrown the poultry industry into confusion and raised concerns over the implication on the health of the citizenry. Correspondent, JOHN SHIKLAM, who visited Birnin Yero village, where the disease was first noticed, reports.

                                                          The problem, it was learnt actually started in December last year when Sambawa Farms purchased its day old chicks somewhere in Kano. Several of the birds were said to have been dying off on daily basis, prompting the invitation of experts to investigate the cause of the death of the birds in the farms.

                                                          Veterinary scientists at the Ahmadu Bello Unversity (ABU), Zaria were said to have embarked on thorough investigations after which the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, near Jos, Plateau state, diagnosed their sickness as the avian bird flu.

                                                          Among the steps taken by the state government are the destruction of all birds at the Sambawa farms as well as birds in other commercial farms who could have bought their day old chicks from the identified place in Kano.


                                                            Nigeria suspects illegal imports brought bird flu

                                                            March 02, 2006, 20:45 Nigeria suspects that illegal poultry imports were to blame for introducing deadly bird flu to Africa’s most populous country, the information minister said today. The virus known as H5N1 has spread to seven of the country’s 36 states and the capital city since it was first detected in northern Nigeria on February 8, but 90% of infected farms bought day-old chicks from one farm in Kano state, Frank Nweke, the minister said. He said in a statement: "There is a very strong basis to believe that avian flu may have been introduced into Nigeria through illegally imported day-old chicks. "Further investigations, into the activities of farms where birds have tested positive to the highly pathogenic avian flu, revealed that 90% of them patronised the Sovet Farms Ltd in Kano." Customs agents impounded almost 200 smuggled cartons of hatching eggs at the country’s main international airport in Lagos in January, he added. Adamu Bello, the agriculture minister had originally blamed illegal imports for the bird flu outbreak, which has led to the destruction of 450 000 birds and deaths of thousands more, but he later pointed to migrating wild birds as the source.

                                                            Martin W

                                                              [“machine translation”]

                                                              .html]The H5N1 will support the chicken factories[/url]

                                                              INTERVIEW Switzerland Samuel Jutzi is l’un directors of
                                                              l’Organisation of the United Nations for l’alimentation and
                                                              l’agriculture (FAO). It analyzes the consequences of the influenza
                                                              aviaire for the poultry producers and the consumers.

                                                              To the head office of FAO, to Rome, Samuel Jutzi, directs division
                                                              livestock health and production. A station which places it in first
                                                              line in the battle against virus H5N1 that FAO carries out on the
                                                              ground, mainly in the countries deprived of effective veterinary

                                                              – How this epidemic could become such extensive?

                                                              – It is still a mystery! Frankly, when the disease was declared
                                                              practically at the same time in ten country, c’ was a surprise. One
                                                              thought of the migratory birds but, at the time, their routes did not
                                                              correspond to the extension of the disease. Today, it is supposed
                                                              that it is the poultry trade which propagated the disease at its
                                                              beginnings in Asia.

                                                              – And elsewhere in the world?

                                                              – last year, the assumption of the migratory birds re-appeared for
                                                              the extension of the disease towards the west, but there are still
                                                              many uncertainties. As for the arrival of the disease in Nigeria, the
                                                              most probable assumption, it is that of illegal poultry imports, even
                                                              if the migrating ones perhaps also played a role.

                                                              Martin W

                                                                Not Nigeria, but relevant

                                                                Wrong vaccine spread virus

                                                                The prevalence of the virus in rural areas has surprised many.
                                                                According to a report prepared by the ministries of agriculture and
                                                                health, in conjunction with the parliamentary Agriculture Committee,
                                                                it suggests that domestic poultry, and not wild birds, account for
                                                                the spread of the highly pathogenic virus. There is no scientific
                                                                proof that migrating wild birds brought the deadly virus to the
                                                                country, says the report. If that were the case, then coastal cities
                                                                would have been the first to be infected. So far, though, they remain
                                                                free of infection while the majority of human and poultry H5N1 cases
                                                                have been detected in rural areas.
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