July 15, 2016


H5N1 avian flu hits Cameroon as it spreads across West, Central Africa



Cameroon has become the latest African country to be affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 as it continues to spread across the region, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday, July 13.


The latest H5N1 outbreaks were recently confirmed on chicken farms in Cameroon, putting the poultry production in the country and its neighbours at high risk, FAO said, adding this is the first time the disease has been found in Central Africa since 2006.


Besides Cameroon, five other countries in West and Central Africa are battling the bird flu, including Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria.


Nigeria continues to be most affected with the total number of outbreaks exceeding 750 and dead or culled birds reaching nearly 3.5 million.


The latest outbreaks in Cameroon has raised concerns that the disease might advance southward. Already, FAO has alerted neighbouring governments to be vigilant and to continue their heightened surveillance and prevention efforts.


"We're looking at a quickly spreading disease that has devastating effects on livelihoods in communities," said Abebe Haile Gabriel, FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa.


The strain can infect and cause death in humans and kills poultry at a high rate.


It has caused the death of tens of millions of poultry and losses of tens of billions of dollars worldwide since the virus first spread internationally in 2013. In Cameroon alone, losses have added up to an estimated $20 million, FAO said, citing local media reports.


FAO said it was working closely with the World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to offer member-countries assistance, such as risk assessments, contingency planning, technical advice and laboratory material.-Rick Alberto

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