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Nigerian farms destroy dead poultry, labs testing

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

NIGERIA - Farms in northern Nigeria are destroying thousands of chickens that have died in the past few days as laboratories seek to determine the cause of the deaths, authorities said on Tuesday.

Nigerian farms destroy dead poultry, labs testing - NIGERIA - Farms in northern Nigeria are destroying thousands of chickens that have died in the past few days as laboratories seek to determine the cause of the deaths, authorities said on Tuesday.

Researchers at two laboratories testing samples from the dead poultry said they could not yet say for sure why the birds died. They are testing for bird flu, a strain of which has killed more than 70 people in Asia, and for a range of other poultry viruses such as Newcastle disease.

"I believe between 10,000 and 15,000 poultry have been destroyed so far," said Jide Coker, chief consultant epidemiologist at the Health Ministry in the capital Abuja, adding that standard procedure was to burn carcasses. Authorities have sought to play down fears that the poultry deaths could be Africa's first outbreak of avian influenza. Initial tests found bacteria in the samples that could have contributed to the birds' deaths, including escherichia coli, better known as E.coli.

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral infectioin in poultry for which there is no treatment. The virus causes, at worst, only minor illnesses in humans. E.coli is a type of normally harmless bacteria that can cause serious diseases under certain conditions.

Poultry started dying in abnormally high numbers over the weekend at the Sovat farm in Danbare village in the northern state of Kano. Other farms in Kano and in neighbouring Kaduna state are also affected. The National Veterinary Research Institute in central Plateau state, which is testing some of the samples, says it has capacity to identify bird flu but not specific strains of that disease.

If test results, expected within the next few days, point towards bird flu, the institute will send samples to a laboratory in the Italian city of Padua that would be able to determine whether the deadly H5N1 strain was present. That strain has spread from Asia to Europe and the Middle East, but has not been detected in Africa.

Experts have warned that any outbreak could have devastating consequences in the world's poorest continent, which would struggle to detect and combat bird flu. Scientists fear the H5N1 strain, which mostly affects birds, could mutate to a form that can easily be transmitted between people, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions. Many Africans live at close quarters with poultry, creating an ideal environment for the virus to jump to humans. Experts also say the continent is on the flight-path of migratory birds thought to carry the disease.

Source: Reuters - 7th February 2006

5m Editor