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West African Countries Brace Against Bird Flu


As Nigeria and international health officials try to contain the bird flu epidemic within Nigerian borders, nearby West African countries are also taking measures to prevent the virus's spread.

The two governments which reacted the fastest were those of Mauritania and Benin. Officials there immediately banned the import of all poultry-related products coming from Nigeria.

In Mauritania, journalist Salem Bokary says the news about Nigeria's bird flu is spreading fast and causing panic.

He says Mauritanians eat a lot of chicken from Nigeria, and that it's a main source of protein for many.

But he says Mauritania has now added Nigeria to a list of 17 countries from which it has already banned bird-related products due to the worldwide epidemic, including Turkey and China.

Benin's government also slapped an import ban and put out messages on local radio stations, urging residents to stop eating all chicken-related products, including eggs.

But social commentator Gerard Guedegbe says despite the measures, Benin, which borders Nigeria, is vulnerable to the virus's spread.

"Many of the goods that are consumed in Benin come through smuggling and also via corruption at the different borders," he said. "Of course, the government of Benin says that the goods that are based on poultry are now prohibited from importation from Nigeria, but the problem is that the borders are not so secure."

In Ghana, where the government did not react immediately, the news of Nigeria's bird flu is having less of an impact, according to Accra resident, Efam Awo Dovi.

"Unless, you've been following the international outbreak you probably don't know anything much about it. In the national dailies, this morning, the story did not even make the front page," she said. "It was actually on the page where they have the inside Africa stories so it's really difficult to tell what the ordinary person is saying or thinking in Ghana right now."

But Ghana's association of poultry farmers expressed concern, saying if the virus spreads from Nigeria, it would not have the capacity to deal with the problem. Officials from the association said they were awaiting directives from the ministry of agriculture.

In Ivory Coast, which has a strong national poultry industry, the government has already banned worldwide poultry imports.