Quest for a proactive & non reactive govt

By Emmanuel Ajibulu

By Emmanuel Ajibulu

The outbreak of swine influenza virus (SIV) has gained so much attention and publicity recently by different health organisations, governments of many nations, as well as safety experts around the world with the aim to avert the spread of the disease among pigs and ultimately to avoid human to human infection. The symptoms of the SIV includes headache, tiredness, chills, aching muscles, limb or joint pain, diarrhea or stomach upset, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and loss of appetite.

The presence of the flu has however been reported in Mexico, Canada, Mid-western United States, South America, Europe, Kenya, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, parts of eastern Asia, to mention a few . But so far there are no reported cases of swine flu (H1N1) in Nigeria to date.

The history of swine flu was scientifically traced to 1918, when swine influenza was first proposed to be a disease related to human influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic, when pigs became sick at the same time as humans. The first identification of an influenza virus as a cause of disease in pigs occurred about ten years later, in 1930. For the following 60 years, swine influenza strains were almost exclusively H1N1. Then, between 1997 and 2002, new strains of three different subtypes and five different genotypes emerged as causes of influenza among pigs in North America. In 1997-1998, H3N2 strains emerged. These strains, which include genes derived by reassortment from human, swine and avian viruses, have become a major cause of swine influenza in North America. Reassortment between H1N1 and H3N2 produced H1N1. In 1999 in Canada, a strain of H4N6 crossed the species barrier from birds to pigs, but was contained on a single farm.

The H1N1 form of swine flu is one of the descendants of the strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic. As well as persisting in pigs, the descendants of the 1918 virus have also circulated in humans through the 20th century, contributing to the normal seasonal epidemics of influenza. However, direct transmission from pigs to humans is rare, with only 12 cases in the U.S. since 2005. Although World Health Organization in its recent statistics said there are 1,893 reported cases in 23 countries. Nevertheless, the retention of influenza strains in pigs after these strains have disappeared from the human population might make pigs a reservoir where influenza viruses could persist, later emerging to reinfect humans once human immunity to these strains has waned.

Meanwhile some Nigerian stakeholders in the agriculture sector have however reacted to this serious issue, one of them is the former deputy governor of Ogun State Mr. Gbenga Kaka, who has now found solace in farming. He declined the campaigns made by the Federal Government of Nigeria regarding the Swine Flu virus, avian influenza virus and other major diseases during the interview he granted a local TV station LTV8 (6th of May 2009).

He said government should go beyond mere propaganda and ensures that all research institutes in Nigeria are well funded and equipped with cutting edge facilities so as to curtail this deadly diseases ravaging the birds and livestock. He expressed dissatisfaction over the propaganda pointing that it has created anxiety in people making them to eschew the consumption of pork, chickens and eggs and according to him that has largely discouraged people from investing in poultry farming. He berated the government of the day who canvasses for self employment but has failed to create an enabling environment for what it is advocating.

Without mincing of words a number of investors in the agricultural sector who took bank loans have ran into serious financial crises as a result of the propaganda and lack of information management on the part of Nigerian government.

It is no news that without farming there won't be food for the sustenance of growth and the general wellbeing of the people both young and old. Nigerian government should show more commitment and seriousness rather than working on speculations, or relying on the efforts of other country's research/reports on health related issues.

Nigerian health ministry is giving so much lips service about the swine flu pandemic, but it is embarrassing to know that there are several other diseases which is claiming lives or leading to deformities in both children and adults. Meningitis, malaria, hepatitis, polio etc are still diseases screaming for medical attention in Nigeria.

The efforts of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria should be deeply commended (FAAN) through its consultant in respect of their preparedness plan to contain this and other communicable diseases in Murtala Muhammed airport both local and international wing, but I urge them to get all the necessary apparatus/devices to aid this initiative as soon as possible; the seaports are equally expected to act accordingly. President Umaru Yar'Adua has tried meritoriously in his own beat and the ministry of health should not use its own laxity to discredit the image of his administration.

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