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Prevalence of Avian Influenza Among Indigenous Chickens

The Prevalence of Avian Influenza Among Indigenous Chickens in Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area and Local Chickens Sold In Eke Market, Ekwulobia, Nigeria.



Influenza is an acute infectious disease caused by a member of the orthomyxoviridae family. The term ‘flu’ is often used for any febrile respiratory illness with systemic symptoms that may be caused by a myriad of viral or rarely bacterial agents as well as influenza. Thus, Influenza or flu is also a common viral disease of the upper respiratory tract of both man and animals.

It affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and occasionally lungs. Influenza is commonly seen in local outbreaks or epidemics throughout the world. Epidemics may appear at any time but are usually concentrated in months of high humidity. They occur explosively with little or no warning. Epidemics may be short-lived, lasting days or weeks but larger epidemics may last for months. Epidemics are responsible for large losses in productivity. Birds, pigs, horse, ferret, dogs and cat can all be infected with various strains of influenza virus. Influenza in birds is always referred to as Avian influenza (AI), in pigs as swine influenza, in horse as equine influenza and so on. Influenza in human is often referred to as the seasonal influenza.

Avian influenza (bird flu, avian flu) is an inapparent or nonclinical, acute and highly fatal viral infection of all domestic and wild birds, but may infect several species of mammals.  Ducks, geese and water fowls are less susceptible but do contract the disease at times (Hagan and Brunner, 1988). Avian Influenza is a potential zoonosis. It can result in inapparent infection, conjunctivitis or severe pneumonia. The small number of human deaths associated with HPAI appears to have resulted from direct exposure to infected birds on farm or in markets. More than 840 clinical cases of H5N1 influenza infection have been reported in humans. Two features of recent avian influenza H5N1 outbreaks are striking: the predominance of children and young adults and the high mortality rate (Stöhr, 2005). Highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses now appear to be endemic among bird and poultry populations. Sporadic transmission to humans raises concern that the H5N1 virus may mutate or combine with genetic material from co-infecting human influenza viruses to generate a novel strain capable of sustained human-to-human transmission with pandemic potential. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the potential threat from H5N1 as a “public health crisis.”


Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is a type of domesticated fowl and a subspecies of red jungle fowl (locally referred to as native fowls respectively.). Chicken include both the rooster or cock and hen. Chicken are omnivores, they feed on seeds, insects etc and can survive for five to ten years depending on the breed. They live in flocks together (Christopher, et al, 2003).  Chicken belongs to the kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Aves, Order Galliformes, Family Phasianidae, Subfamily Phasianinae, Genus Gallus, Species Gallus gallus, and subspecies Gallus gallus domesticus.  It is one of the most common and widespread domestic animals.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A viruses of the H5N1 subtype are still causing widespread infections and significant lethality in bird populations throughout Nigeria.  In unvaccinated chickens, H5N1 infectiousness develops very quickly after infection (0.25 day) and transmission among birds is very efficient ( Bouma et al., 2009). Numerous instances of human transmission have occurred, resulting in severe disease or death.

 Avian influenza viruses are members of the family orthomyxoviridae—an enveloped, segmented, negative-sense RNA virus. Within the family are three strains of influenza: A, B and C. Types B and C affect only humans while type A affects poultry species and there is evidence that the avian influenza viruses can naturally infect other mammals (Liu et al., 2003). Avian influenza is a potential and unpredictable threat to humans because of the segmented nature of the genome. Wild aquatic birds are a natural reservoir of avian influenza viruses (AIV). Ecological studies have established them as a primary source of virus for domestic poultry as well as other animal species including humans. Avian Influenza A viruses are divided on the bases of the antigenic relationships in the surface glycoproteins haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) into subtypes. There are at present 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. All 16 hemagglutinin (HA) and 9 neuraminidase (N) AIV subtypes, and most HE-neuraminidase combinations have been detected in wild birds, predominantly ducks, geese, and shorebirds (Fouchier et al., 2005). Low pathogenic AIV have been isolated from at least 109 wild bird species with 1.6 to 10% prevalence in ducks (Olsen et al., 2006).  Most AI viruses (H1-16 subtypes) are of low pathogenicity, but currently, only viruses of H5 and H7 subtypes have been shown to cause the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in susceptible species of poultry such as chickens, turkeys, and related gallinaceous domestic poultry, but not all H5 and H7 viruses are virulent. Avian influenza viruses have been found to replicate in the intestinal tract of ducks and thus, viral contamination of the water habitat through shedding of virus in feces may play an important role in spreading type A influenza virus.

Avian influenza is now known to exist worldwide. A strain of the H5N1-type of avian influenza virus that emerged in 1997 has been identified as the most likely source of a future influenza pandemic. Avian influenza virus spreads in the air and in manure and there is no evidence that the virus can survive in well cooked meat. Avian influenza is characterized by respiratory, digestive and in some cases nervous signs and high morbidity and mortality.

Incubation period ranges from a few hours to 2 weeks depending on the virus dose, route of infection and species of birds. An important feature of the avian influenza (AI) epidemic and the virus is the wide range of species of birds infected ( Swayne 2003). AI is world wide in distribution (Arafa et al., 2015; Setiawaty 2012; Finkleman et al., 2007) with a negative socio-economic impact apart from the public health significance of the disease. In the Asian epidemic (1997-2005) all species of domestic poultry were affected (Arafa et al., 2015; Finkleman et al., 2007). In countries with mixed populations of birds, village chickens and ducks were the principal focus of clinical disease (Finkleman et al., 2007). Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is associated with a high death rate and disrupts poultry production and trade and can be transmitted to humans.

 1.1  Aim of the Study

The major aim of this study is to evaluate the presence of avian influenza virus antibodies among indigenous and imported local chikens in Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area and Eke market in Ekwulobia, both in Anambra state, Nigeria.

 1.2   Specific Objectives

      i.          To determine the prevalence of Avian influenza virus IgG and IgM antibodies among local chickens.

    ii.          To identify the population of local chickens that is susceptible to avian influenza virus in the study areas.

  iii.          To correlate the prevalence of avian influenza between the imported and indigenous local chickens. 

  iv.          To make appropriate recommendation aimed at facilitating effective public health policy.

  1.3  Statement of Problem

Avian influenza has been a serious menace, affecting poultry birds adversely. Hence leading to both health related and economic problems. Asides causing the loss of poultry birds, Avian influenza is also a zoonotic disease and therefore, human cases can as well occur due to direct exposure to infected birds. Zoonotic transmission leads to emergence of totally different crisis.

 1.4  Justification

Since the outbreak of avian influenza in Nigeria, poultry farms have experienced series of periodic breaks in production. These breaks have resulted in economic losses and fear of zoonotic transmission. Poultry meat and eggs are very good sources of animal protein. Poultry meats alongside fish contain less cholesterol and are seen as good alternatives to red meat. The importance of studies aimed at containing the menance of influenza virus cannot be overemphasized as most poultry farmers have opted for other alternatives like fish farming. Hence leading to an economic downturn in poultry farming.


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