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Nigeria Confirms Bird Flu Cases in Two More States

  • Gilbert da Costa

Nigeria Monday confirmed that tests carried out on poultry samples from two states as well as some tests taken in the city of Abuja have confirmed the presence of the deadly H5N1 virus.

Bird flu outbreak has been confirmed in two more states in Northern Nigeria. Information Minister Frank Nweke told reporters Monday that the states of Katsina and Zamfara, as well as the capital, Abuja, now have confirmed cases of bird flu.

He said tests carried out on poultry samples from seven other states were negative.

Nigeria is also making plans to purchase 250,000 doses of anti-viral drugs in an effort to calm fears that an epidemic could break out from a human infection of the bird flu. H5N1 can be passed from the carcasses of infected birds to humans, but not, in its current form, between humans.

A senior official of the health ministry, Dr. Ahmed Nasidi, says the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo had so far handled the outbreak very well.

"Within the capability of the country and the fact that Mr. President is personally involved, I think, even the partners have said that Nigeria has really moved fast and of course it is an unfortunate thing that has never happened in Africa before," he said. "This was the first time and so we were not really as prepared as we would have been as the south asian countries that have been experiencing this in the past."

Meanwhile, an epidemiologist from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told reporters in Kano that people in Africa were safer than those in Asia, where H5N1 has killed more than 90 people since 2003. The reason, he says, is that in Asia there are more chickens living in close proximity to humans.

But UN health officials fear that the virus might take hold in Africa's teeming cities, where many people's immune systems are compromised by AIDS and malnutrition.

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