Remarks by Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins Training of Trainers Workshop for the Avian Influenza Outbreak Ibadan, Oyo, Nigeria (March 23, 2015)

All protocols duly observed.

Good morning all. It is my pleasure to be here at the official opening of this very important training. We are here because the avian influenza outbreak is ravaging the poultry industry in Nigeria.

I am encouraged to see you all today. I know each person trained here represents a ripple effect of knowledge and power to stop the spread of this epidemic.

Avian Influenza, or Bird Flu, as we all know, is a serious threat to the economy, and human health. We are fortunate that so far, there have been no human cases in Nigeria, but this outbreak has already taken its toll – with hundreds of farms infected, and hundreds of thousands of birds culled.

The poultry industry is important to Nigeria and Nigerians. We love our chicken, and we should feel safe and assured when we enjoy our favorite chicken dishes. Just as Nigeria tackled Ebola, it will control bird flu. I do not know if any of you normally eat raw chickens or eggs. If you do, please do not do it now. With thorough cooking, those who eat chicken and eggs can be safe from this virus. Like I said, there are no human cases this time around so far, so let us keep it that way by being safe.

It is vital that we get the right message out and that the job gets done right. Those conducting surveillance and responding to the infection need to know how to do their job. They must know how to dispose of infected birds properly, and how to disinfect their pens and surroundings thoroughly. We must get this right.

Many of the people here today were part of the 2006 bird flu response. It shows your willingness and determination to control this outbreak.  I appreciate the fact you are here to participate in two days of intensive training, bringing your skills to the table, sharpening and refining them, all in order to work more effectively together, and ultimately end this epidemic.

I challenge all of you in the front-line to maintain your prowess, remain vigilant, and keep the surveillance system operating smoothly.

Bio-security is both a national and global concern. In the U.S., we have had three major outbreaks of avian flu – one in 1924, a second in 1983, and another in 2004. In 1983, 17 million birds had to be killed, costing the U.S. poultry sector over $400 million. In 2004, only 6,600 birds from one farm needed to be culled. We got better at detecting and responding to Avian Influenza; now, Nigeria must get better, and continue getting better. Prevention, detection, and containment – this is what must not be forgotten; it is part of the business, and must remain so.

I commend the government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the swiftness in taking steps to contain the current outbreak. They and development partners have come together to find a way to work together for this cause.

The U.S. Government, through President Obama’s “Feed the Future” program on food security and malnutrition, managed by USAID, is supporting this activity. I thank USAID and the experts here today for quickly responding to this need.

Nigeria already has the foundation and structure to battle avian influenza. Today, we are building on that strong foundation. I am honored to stand with you today and show our solidarity in combating this outbreak.

Thank you for coming.