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Bird Flu Spreads to Niger and Two More Nigerian States

Bird flu has spread to two more states in Nigeria, bringing the number of affected states to nine. It is now also reported in neighboring Niger, the third African country with confirmed cases. Egypt is the other.

Joseph Dominech is the chief veterinary officer for the UN Food an Agriculture Organization. He’s currently in Paris attending a conference on bird flu. He spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the continued spread of the disease in Nigeria:

“It’s because it took some weeks before they were able to start applying control measures and particularly control of movements of animals. So, by that time, of course, the disease was expected to spread and this is what happens. Not a surprise at all, unfortunately. It’s not because the authorities haven’t done a good job. It’s not because they are not committed…but it’s very difficult in this country to stop the movements (of poultry).”

He says it would be surprising if it spreads further.

Last week, officials were considering whether to begin vaccinations against bird flu. He says, “The decision has been made to purchase vaccines and to establish a strategic stock of vaccines, syringes and needles. And the time the vaccine comes, it needs two weeks, it will most probably be decided because they are realizing the disease is still spreading. But again, this is up to the government to decide but we think it will most probably become a tool to be used.”

Dominech says he not surprised bird flu has spread to Niger because it borders Nigeria to the north and conditions there regarding poultry are practically the same as that of Nigeria.