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New Bird Flu Outbreak Confirmed in Northern Nigeria


Health officials in Nigeria have confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in another northern state. Gilbert da Costa has more for VOA from Abuja.

A spokesman for the Zamfara state ministry of health in northern Nigeria, Aminu Abdulrazak, told reporters that tests on birds showing signs of the H5N1 bird flu confirmed the outbreak.

He said more than 200 birds have so far been culled at an infected farm in Namafara village to minimize the spread of the disease.

The first confirmed case of bird flu in Nigeria was reported in February last year. The deadly virus subsequently spread to other parts of the country.

Zamfara now joins the long list of Nigerian states that have reported outbreaks since last year.

Experts fear this is another sign that the virus may be spreading among poultry farms in Nigeria.

Nigeria Veterinary Association President Garba Sharabutu blames a weak monitoring system and the influx of unqualified animal health personnel for the persistence of avian flu in Nigeria.

"Up till now, the populace has not come to terms with the issue of movement of birds," he said. "And the second thing is that, we are also trying to caution members of our profession and the quack doctors that move about, because by the time people engage people who do not know the implication of moving from one farm to another without taking necessary precautions, it is possible to have these [new infections]."

The Department of Veterinary Research says about 1 million birds have died since the bird flu outbreak of February last year.

Dr. Sharabutu says Nigeria will have an idea of the extent of bird flu infections soon, when officials finish analyzing results from a nationwide surveillance project.

"People were sent to the various states of the federation and we undertook surveillance, " said Dr. Sharabutu. "So in the next month it is possible that we will be able to know the real status of the disease in all parts of the federation from the samples that we had gone around to collect."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with some 150 million people, reported West Africa's first human death from bird flu early last year. It is the only country in the region to report a human death from the disease.

The World Health Organization says bird flu has killed 185 people since late 2003, most of them in Asia.