Officials in Benin say tests have confirmed the presence of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus on two poultry farms.

Agriculture Minister Roger Dovonou says tests from a laboratory in Italy confirmed the virus has struck one farm in the city of Cotonou and another in the town of Adjarra, outside the capital Porto Novo.

Benin reported its first suspected cases of bird flu on December 7th. Workers slaughtered several hundred chickens at the two farms as a precautionary measure, and also disinfected the sites.

H5N1 mainly affects birds but is capable of infecting humans. The virus has killed more than 200 people around the world, mostly in Asia, since 2003.

Several west African countries have reported cases of the virus. Benin's neighbor Nigeria reported the area's first human fatality from H5N1 early this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.