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Nigeria Investigates New Suspected Cases of Bird Flu

Nigerian officials are investigating a suspected fresh outbreak of avian influenza in two northern states. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja that thousands of birds have been culled to prevent the virus from spreading.

At least one confirmed case of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza has been reported in Sokoto state.

In nearby Katsina, at least two suspected cases are being investigated.

Dr. Garba Sharabutu, a veterinarian and president of the Nigerian veterinarian association, who is in Sokoto to help contain an outbreak, says sufficient steps have been taken.

"We have one [case] that has been confirmed in one of the farms here in Sokoto," said Dr. Sharabutu. "Right now, we have moved most of our people there. And, they are actually doing the stamping out, trying to control the disease within the farm. They are really spraying the farm, and they have killed all the birds and buried them properly."

Experts say bird flu has become endemic in Nigeria since it was first detected about a year ago, despite the government's claim the disease has been wiped out.

A number of states have reported suspected cases in the last few months, prompting fears that a major resurgence is inevitable.

Dr. Sharabutu says the authorities have risen to the challenge this time, and appear keen to check the possible spread of the virus.

"The federal [government] might moved to Sokoto," added Dr. Sharabutu. "They are there, trying to control things. The state governor is doing his best. Yesterday, we had sensitization workshop in Sokoto. So, with these renewed efforts, I am definitely sure something may come out of it."

More than 450,000 infected chickens have been slaughtered in Nigeria since last year, but no human case has so far been reported.