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FAO Urges Stricter Bird Flu Controls in Nigeria

Nigeria is being urged to increase its control measures on poultry farms and markets to prevent the spread of bird flu – and reduce the risk to humans. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says the H5N1 virus is still circulating in Nigeria, with outbreaks reported in 10 states in recent months. About 300-thousand poultry have died of bird flu in Nigeria, while another 400-thousand have been culled to control the spread.

High-risk practices include handling sick or dead chickens, especially those from what the FAO describes as “unsafe slaughtering of poultry at home or in markets.”

Joseph Domenech is the FAO’s chief veterinary officer. From Rome, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about implementing bird flu control measures in Nigeria.

“Better reporting means better surveillance. Everything comes to surveillance…they have to accelerate the capabilities to do surveillance in order to detect an outbreak as soon as possible…(and) when this is done, having the capacity and capability to react immediately. So it’s early response. And the response is cullings. Cullings are done but not enough,” he says.”

“The last point,” he says,” is control of movements…to stop the movements from one city to another one or to close markets is something which is very difficult. They have improved a lot since one year (ago), but obviously it’s still not enough.”

There is still a high risk of bird flu spreading from Nigeria to neighboring countries. Domenech says that he expects the disease to spread again beyond Nigeria’s borders. The risk to humans remains, as well. Nigeria had its first confirmed case of H5N1 infection in humans recently. Domenech says that he was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.