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H5N1 Virus Resurfaces in Cameroon


FILE - Chickens with H5N1 virus.

FILE - Chickens with H5N1 virus.

Huge quantities of live chickens and other table birds are stockpiling in Kiossi on Cameroon's southern border, following a ban on Cameroon table birds by neighboring Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The ban was announced as a result of the resurgence of the avian influenza virus that has claimed 40,000 birds.

Farm owner Elizabeth Medoung is transporting her birds from Yaounde to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. She says at Kiossi she was informed that those countries had banned the sale of poultry from Cameroon.

She says Cameroon authorities have asked them to stop selling birds, claiming there is a disease killing fouls in Yaounde, and they have no other choice but to accept the order and look for markets elsewhere.

The H5N1 virus reappeared in Cameroon on May 22, after an 8-year absence. It claimed 20,000 chickens, and 20,000 others were destroyed in the capital, Yaounde. Cameroon's minister of livestock, fishing and animal industry, Dr. Taiga, says among measures taken to protect both people and birds from further contamination was the prohibition of the sale of poultry in Yaounde, the only town affected so far.

He says he has prohibited the exit and entry of poultry in Yaounde and ordered the immediate killing and burial of all birds in the affected area. He says he has prohibited the movement of people and animals to the affected areas, and ordered more stocks of antiretroviral treatment and individual protection gadgets. He says he has asked his collaborators to investigate if all those who came into contact with the poultry farms in question were affected.

Prices drop

Since the announcement that the virus had resurfaced in Yaounde, poultry farm owners began looking for markets out of the capital city. The price of chicken has fallen by at least 50 percent, from about 20 U.S. dollars per 4 to 5 Kg chicken to barely 10 dollars.

Veterinary doctor Ichakou Albert, also communication officer of Cameroon's inter-professional council of poultry farmers, says it has dealt a blow to their business and they have asked the government to educate the population that the virus was discovered only in Yaounde.

He says it is a difficult and very serious situation for them and he wants to indicate that it is an isolated case. He says the government is still to clarify if it is an epidemic or a pandemic and that if it is an epidemic, it means many poultry farms in many places have been infected but they are told the only farm that is contaminated is at Mvog Betsi in Yaounde and as such panic should not be created all over Cameroon.

Fears are growing that without timely intervention, the virulent avian flu virus in Cameroon may spread across central and West African states. The virus first arrived in the region in 2006. When the virus resurfaced in Nigeria in 2014, it spread rapidly within three months to Cameroon and Niger. At least five countries reported outbreaks in 2015. As of last year, more than 1.6 million birds in West Africa had been affected, according to the U.N.

The government fears the virus may jump from birds to humans, especially now that the prices of birds have had a 70 percent reduction and many people who could not afford chicken are now going for it.

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