August 13, 2008


New highly pathogenic bird flu strain found in Nigeria



A highly pathogenic strain of bird flu, not previously recorded in Africa, has been detected in Nigeria, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday (August 12).


Nigeria has recently reported two new outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu in the states of Katsina and Kano.


FAO said the strain was more similar those previously identified in Europe, Asia and the Middle East in 2007, but never in Africa.


"The detection of a new avian influenza virus strain in Africa raises serious concerns," said Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator of FAO's Animal Health Service. "It remains unknown how this strain has been introduced to the continent."


He added it was unlikely that wild birds carried the strain to Africa, since the last migration from Europe and central Asia to Africa took place in September 2007 and this year's southerly hasn't started in earnest.


Newman said other channels of infection were likely, such as international trade, or illegal and unreported movement of poultry.


"This increases the risk of avian influenza spread to other countries in western Africa," he said.


FAO chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech said Nigeria was swift in reporting the outbreak and sharing relevant information about the new strain.


The virulent H5N1 bird flu strain was first confirmed in Nigeria in February 2006 and infected poultry in 25 states before being contained.

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