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Some Nigerians Unfazed by Bird Flu-Related Death    

The Nigerian government's announcement earlier this week that tests confirmed the country's first human death from the bird flu virus appears to have left Lagos residents unfazed. Sarah Simpson reports for VOA it was business as usual at Lagos' poultry market Thursday.

In Breweries Market in Lagos, Biola Saheed haggles over the price of the flapping chicken the young market boy holds by its feet. Around them other customers, despite recent reports of a human case of bird flu, are waiting to purchase other chickens.

The Nigerian government said Wednesday tests confirmed that a young woman from Lagos died from the H5N1 virus after plucking an infected chicken for cooking. She is believed to be the first victim of the bird flu virus in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization has said samples from the dead woman have been sent to a London laboratory for testing.

At the Lagos market, Saheed has heard about the young woman's death. Though she admits she would not be able to recognize a bird infected with avian flu, she says she is not worried as she has a special way of preparing chicken.

"The way I can cook mine is different from others, you understand? Like me if I get home now I kill the chicken, I have to use lime to clean everything to, you know, clean the body before I can cook it. That will make it nice," she said.

Another customer, Sodangi Dogari, who is 35 years old and a trained vet, says the government should educate people better about bird flu, so like him, they can recognize a sick bird so they do not buy them.

He said, "I buy chicken, I eat chicken and I take my time to buy chicken and know the type of chicken I am buying."

One vendor at the market explains a sick bird is easy to spot. He says ill birds look lethargic; normally red cockscombs turn a bluish black when sick and when the birds are held upside down fluid runs from their beaks.

According to the World Health Organization, eating well cooked chicken meat does not carry a risk of bird flu infection for humans. However, handling live or dead chickens infected with bird flu or living in close quarters with infected birds, is risky, the WHO warns.

Young boys in ragged clothes and flip-flops earn money slaughtering, plucking and chopping birds at the back of the market. They have no access to clean water or soap to wash the blood that covers their hands and shirt-fronts.

At least 164 people have died of bird flu worldwide according to the World Health Organization. The health expert's greatest fear is that the virus will mutate and be able to jump from one infected human to another, causing a global pandemic.

Dr. Marcus Eruaga is a general practitioner in the Lagos neighborhood where the woman who died of bird flu had lived. He says that people in the area have so many other pressing daily problems that they are unlikely to have paid much attention to the bird flu virus.

"They might not have heard about bird flu because I believe there are other major primary issues confronting them, especially the down-trodden ones," he said. "The struggle for daily survival, for their food for their meals, for health care, water etc. etc."

Nigeria reported its first case of bird flu in February last year. The virus has spread to 17 of Nigeria's 36 states despite culling and quarantine measures.