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Nigeria tests dead poultry from northern farm

by 5m Editor
6 February 2006, at 12:00am

NIGERIA - Nigeria has sent samples from poultry that died on a farm in the northern state of Kano to a veterinary laboratory for testing, but authorities said this was unlikely to be Africa's first case of deadly H5N1 bird flu.

Nigeria tests dead poultry from northern farm - NIGERIA - Nigeria has sent samples from poultry that died on a farm in the northern state of Kano to a veterinary laboratory for testing, but authorities said this was unlikely to be Africa's first case of deadly H5N1 bird flu.

Poultry have died in abnormally high numbers on the Sovat farm in Danbare village and samples have been sent to a laboratory in central Plateau state to identify the cause of the deaths.

"From what we know for now, it's most likely to be Newcastle disease, but we've sent samples just to check," said Junaidu Maina, acting director of the livestock department at the Agriculture Ministry in the capital Abuja.

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral disease in poultry for which there is no treatment. The virus causes, at worst, only minor illnesses in humans.

Sick birds typically develop diseases of the nervous, respiratory or reproductive systems and morbidity is usually high, according to website www.thepoultrysite.com.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has killed more than 70 people in Asia, has spread from Asia to Europe and the Middle East, but has not been detected in Africa.

Experts have warned that any outbreak of the deadly virus could have devastating consequences in the world's poorest continent, where millions of people live at close quarters with poultry.

Lola Sadiq, the point person for avian flu at the World Health Organisation (WHO) office in Abuja, said the WHO was aware of the poultry deaths in Kano and was liaising with the Nigerian agriculture and health ministries over the issue.

She said the laboratory in Plateau would try and identify the cause of the deaths and if it was unable to do so it would send samples abroad for further testing. It was not immediately clear how long the testing would take.

The official in charge of bird flu at the Health Ministry, Jide Coker, said Nigeria had a plan of action to react to any suspected outbreak of the H5N1 virus.

Experts fear the strain, which mostly affects birds, could mutate to a form that can easily be transmitted between people, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.

While the strain has not yet been detected in Africa, experts say Africa is on the flight-path of migratory birds thought to carry the disease and the close proximity between poultry and humans in towns and villages provides an ideal environment for the virus to jump to humans.

Delegates to a WHO conference in Congo last month said a shortage of money and scientific knowhow could leave Africa struggling to detect and combat bird flu.

Source: Reuters - 6th February 2006

5m Editor