The Nigerian government says laboratory tests for the deadly bird flu virus on samples taken from human victims are positive. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the authorities have moved quickly to assure the public of their safety.
An official statement late Wednesday says a 22-year-old female who died in Lagos on January 17 is the first confirmed human case of bird flu in Nigeria.
Another victim is said to be receiving treatment at a Lagos hospital.
Dr. Abdulsalam Nasidi, the official in charge of the stemming the spread of bird flu to humans in Nigeria, told VOA that the government has started a huge health campaign to contain the virus.
"We are going to embark on a massive public health campaign," Dr. Nasidi said. "And also, we are working with ministry of agric [agriculture] experts to handle the livestock aspect, particularly poultry from the market, and restrict movement of poultry, particularly interstate. We are going to increase bio security, bio safety in poultry and in the health sector, we are going to work quickly with the contacts and also increase our surveillance."
The H5N1 virus is usually spread through contact with infected birds, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that passes easily between people.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, was the first on the continent to report bird flu in poultry last year.
Dr. Nasidi says health authorities are taking steps to assure Nigerians that they are fully disclosing all information on the virus.
"The whole world is worried, not only Nigerians," Dr. Nasidi said. "So, what we are trying to do now, is to assure Nigerians that we are very truthful, we are not hiding any information and we are going to work hard to protect their health, by telling them the truth. We are communicating with masses of Nigerians, to tell them what we have found and tell them what to do, to protect themselves."
Bird flu has killed about 150 people worldwide since late 2003, with most of the deaths in Asia.