Nigeria reports first deadly bird flu in Africa

A “highly pathogenic” strain of the H5N1 bird-flu virus has been found in poultry stocks in Nigeria—the first reported case of the disease in Africa, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Wednesday.

Nigeria on Wednesday reported the outbreak among commercial, battery-cage poultry in Jaji, a village in the northern Kaduna state, according to the OIE.

They are the first cases of H5N1 reported in Africa, OIE spokesperson Maria Zampaglione said. A laboratory in Padova, Italy, identified “a highly pathogenic H5N1 and has further analysed its genetic composition”.

“Investigations are being carried out in order to define the degree of genetic homology with the currently known H5N1 strains,” the statement said.

Nigerian authorities disinfected the farm and introduced quarantine measures and controls on the movement of animals.

The OIE said it is working with the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to “coordinate a common response to this event”.

“A team of experts will be sent to the affected area in order to assess the situation and provide technical advice,” it said.

Bird flu began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, forcing the slaughter of 140-million birds and jumping to humans, killing dozens. It has since spread to Europe and the Middle East.

Health officials had feared a deadly bird-flu virus could enter impoverished, loosely governed African regions where many people raise chickens at home for personal consumption.
There had until now been no cases of bird flu documented in West Africa.

On Monday, Nigerian officials said that initial tests on chickens that mysteriously died in another state of northern Nigeria showed no sign of bird flu.

Nigerian authorities nevertheless urged farmers to monitor their flocks and report strange ailments to authorities. Kano state set up a committee of veterinary surgeons to visit farms and watch out for evidence of a bird flu outbreak.

Experts are particularly concerned that H5N1 might mutate into a form spread easily among humans, triggering a pandemic capable of killing millions.—Sapa-AP

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