Monday 5 February 2007

A turkey flight between England and Nigeria

Between England and Nigeria

One does not recall finding any note or cause for concern during blog crawls in my regular blog haunt much about the avian flu human death in Lagos, Nigeria.

More so, I can contrast this situation with one currently developing in England where discovery of just one infected turkey in a large poultry in Suffolk has lead to the destruction of about 160 thousand turkeys and quarantine zones ranging from 3 kilometres as a protected zone wherein poultry must be confined indoors and 10 kilometres cordoned off as a surveillance zone and an additional 2,000 square kilometers as a restricted zone.

Despite this rapid response to a situation that would definitely hit the commercial bottom line of Bernard Matthews and possibly affect the livelihoods of workers, Russia and Japan have moved to ban all imports of poultry from the United Kingdom.

This is a well coordinated systemic approach to containing a possible epidemic that could first wipe out poultry and birds, this is made more dangerous if the virus leaps the species barrier and starts to infect humans.

The fact that there have only been 160 deaths worldwide and the commensurate action to contain the virus is almost extreme, it belies the fact that not much is known about the virus and how it could evolve into something even more lethal and contagious leading to an uncontrollable pandemic.

This H5N1 virus has a 60% mortality rate amongst humans, especially from the small sample of humans that have ever been infected.

We deserve better administrators

Back in Nigeria, there is an unbearably easy calm about the issue considering the Minister of Health is Professor Eyitayo Lambo, an absolutely uncompassionate intellectual oaf who could not be moved by the fact that licensed hospitals were administering substandard and sometimes poisonous drugs because he had not been personally informed of the issue.

I am sure, many bloggers would have stories of near death encounters in Nigerian hospitals that people would rather die in pain at home than visit the certainty of a killing field.

Something personal

It must be said that the General Hospital in Lagos shields from justice persons who having taken the Hippocratic Oath are wife batterers most foul [I am coming after you], it does not bear scrutiny; however, I must not digress onto the unprofitably emotional.

As I was saying …

This minister has for his deputy an architect, a major in a discipline of no medical significance who probably helps build and design the health infrastructure that allowed ignorant religious leaders in the North to scare their women off receiving the Polio vaccine a few years ago.

Thereby holding back the eradication of Polio in sub-Saharan Africa – we cannot begin to address the kind of attention that has been paid to HIV/AIDS, basically, Nigeria is in demand of and deserves better than has been afforded their people, we need technocrat who would revolutionise and change our health services for the better not federal character political appointees.

A possible fatal touch of Christmas

As it transpired, two women died over Christmas having been infected with the avian flu virus, what is alarming is that this is a time when humans and poultry would be in close proximity shopping for poultry to cook for their Christmas celebrations. Another young woman of 22 died on the 17th of January of the disease in the “under-populated” state of Lagos.

Whilst the government has set in motion facilities for the surveillance and monitoring of poultry and human contact as well as ordered and dispatched large quantities of Tamiflu the drug that is supposed to be therapeutic though with expressed doubts about its effectiveness. Developed countries have stockpiled this drug but do not have enough to cover entire populations, I would not prognosticate about covering 140 million people.

I have seen information about a Professor of Virology, H5N1 is a virus, however, I have not seen any reference to epidemiologists, and I would suppose we would rely on the WHO for additional expertise.

Where did it start?

What really bothers me is that I have not heard of any culling or isolation of poultry, many have their livelihoods from rearing poultry in open areas and even if these are culled there might be no express compensation scheme.

This would prevent people from reporting outbreaks when they should, for the fear of loss and those who might get infected might just concoct twigs and herbs that they have used from malarial infections hoping and praying for a recovery.

As many causes of death in Nigeria are attributed to the more pathological brief illness, we may never know the true extent of infection and transmission if it does indeed affect humans. Many would not visit hospitals because the entrance fee before a doctor conducts a passing glance to those racked with illness is prohibitive to the extreme and there is definitely no guarantee of a useful diagnosis leading to effective treatment with drugs that work.

I can only hope that this issue is not being blown out of proportion by my take on the matter and hopefully providence is on our side to ensure that what the government lacks in managing this situation is made up for by the care and attention of the citizenry and whoever they call upon for protection.


Q&A on avian flu

No Safe Haven – An Annual Report on Attacks on Women in Nigeria

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