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Bird Flu Confirmed in Ivory Coast


The government of Ivory Coast has announced that the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in birds in the commercial capital, Abidjan. Sales of chicken have dropped considerably as many consumers are now avoiding it.

The Ivorian government received confirmation from the main World Organization for Animal Health laboratory in Italy that the 17 birds found in Abidjan had the deadly H5N1 bird flu. Ivory Coast is the fifth West African country to detect the virus in its birds.

At Treichvilles Grand Marché in central Abidjan, chicken vendors standing beside cages filled with their livestock await customers. Since last week's discovery of the H5N1 strain of the bird flu only a few blocks away, sales have dropped to practically zero.

With the government announcement Thursday that bird flu has struck Ivory Coast's commercial capital, the vendors are likely to have even fewer customers.

Idrissa Kondombo owns around 800 chickens, but has not sold any in the past week. He says he used to sell between 20 and 30 a day, sometimes even 40. Dropping his prices has not helped.

He says, after 35 years in the trade, he cannot just abandon his job.

"We are scared of the flu," he said. He adds that there is nothing he can do, it is his job to sell chickens so he cannot just stop selling them.

Meanwhile, his employee is plucking a chicken without wearing rubber gloves. Others lie on top of the cages, many of which are now empty, because Idrissa does not want to buy new chickens.

Idrissa says people are even afraid of walking by his coop at the entrance to the market.

"Before the flu people would come into the market and look around casually and then choose what they wanted," he said. "Now they do not come anymore and a lot of people walk the long way round to get into the market.

Roughly 50 meters away, past the vegetable section, fishmongers are scaling their produce. Demand in fish has gone up, and has created a shortage. Wholesale fish prices have risen by about 30 percent. Traders are finding it difficult to pass the premium on to customers.

Fish seller Christine Kouadia laments that bird flu has made it much harder for her to make a living.

She says it is not good. She says fish is expensive now and she cannot make a profit.

The World Health Organization has promised to assist the Ivorian government to stop the spread of bird flu. Government officials have already started informing chicken traders on the measures they are taking.

No human cases of bird flu have been detected in West Africa.

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