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Burkina Faso Hit By Bird Flu

  • Nico Colombant
  • Zoumana Wonogo

Burkina Faso says it is in control of a bird-flu outbreak, but restaurant owners working where the virus was detected are less certain. Burkina Faso has just confirmed it is the fifth African country, and fourth in West Africa to detect the presence of bird flu.

The government says the H5N-1 bird flu strain has been found in poultry on the outskirts of Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, in the town of Gampela, on the road to Niger.

The owner of the camping restaurant where the bird flu was detected says he alerted authorities in early March when all the wild birds, ostriches, geese, chicken and chicks he kept both for eating and for the distraction of customers started dying.

He said it was only on Monday that the authorities came back to tell him bird flu had been detected. He added that he had already burned all the dead animals with gasoline, and that none are left.

He explained that he had recently bought chicks in Togo coming home from the recent funeral ceremonies of former Togolese leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, and that might have brought the virus to Burkina Faso.

A local veterinarian at the site of the restaurant says he was not worried and that the sun had probably already killed off the disease.

Access to and from the site was not controlled. Witnesses say two policemen lazily drank beer underneath a tree and let people come and go, without giving them any advice.

The owner of a nearby restaurant, who sells chicken as his main dish, told VOA he is worried.

"Oh, a little bit, a little bit, because it came two or three months [ago] in Africa and since we think it came in our area, but we did not know, how or when," he noted. "Now yesterday, suddenly, the minister affirmed it is here now so we are waiting for the role of the minister to see what we can do. We think we will kill all the chicken in our area. We are chicken vendors, and now if there are no chicken in our area, we cannot sell any now."

The government has received aid money to deal with the problem, but some journalists say they are afraid it will all be used for upcoming local elections.

In Ouagadougou, though, government officials said they had protective suits to slaughter chickens and two million doses of vaccines to immunize poultry.

They also said they would set up a security belt around the area where the virus was detected, but by mid-Tuesday, nothing of the sort had been started.

The U.N. bird flu coordinator says African countries need more funds and advice to cope with the spreading virus. The other confirmed bird flu affected countries in West Africa are Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon.

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