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Nigeria May Have Bird Flu in Eight States

Posted by By DULUE MBACHU, Associated Press Writer on 2006/02/14 | Views: 507 |

Nigeria May Have Bird Flu in Eight States

A deadly strain of bird flu may have emerged in eight of Nigeria's 36 states, authorities said Monday, as concerns grew that the virus had been spreading long before officials knew it was in Africa.

A deadly strain of bird flu may have emerged in eight of Nigeria's 36 states, authorities said Monday, as concerns grew that the virus had been spreading long before officials knew it was in Africa.

The disease has also apparently spread further into Greece, where a wild goose tested positive on the Aegean Sea island of Skyros adding to the three known cases in the northern Greek mainland.

With this weekend's discovery of the H5N1 strain in Greece and Italy both European Union members countries throughout the continent are increasing preventative measures against the disease, which has killed at least 91 people since 2003, mostly in Asia.

Albania, which is close to both Greece and Italy, is buying protective clothing and stockpiles of antiviral drugs. In Bulgaria, where the disease has been confirmed in wild birds, authorities declared six-mile "risk zones" around the places where the dead birds were found and police were restricting traffic around some wetlands.

In the Netherlands, the agriculture minister has ordered commercial fowl to be kept indoors as a protective measure to prevent an outbreak, Dutch media reported Monday.

Nigeria, which reported Africa's first cases of the disease in birds, was screening workers from the farm where the H5N1 strain was first discovered. It was confirmed in three northern states and has already killed thousands of birds in the area.

On Monday, health officials said five additional states were also suspected to have the disease.

Barry Schoub, executive director of South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said the virus probably has spread over a much more extensive area in Nigeria and that he expected to see large-scale destruction of birds there.

"The Nigeria case is very, very concerning because the spread in poultry appears to have been going on for quite some time and may well be more extensive," Schoub told reporters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He said destroying birds was the most effective way to stop the spread of the infection in developing countries.

Health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted easily between people and become a pandemic. Most human cases of the disease so far have been linked to contact with infected birds.

On Sunday, samples taken from a Nigerian family with two sick children suspected of contracting bird flu were sent abroad for testing, said Abdulsalam Nasidi.

Nasidi gave no details on the family's size and declined to say where the tests were sent. He said the children "are in fairly good condition ... but we are still observing them."

In the northern town of Jaji, near the farm where H5N1 was first confirmed, doctors examined 20 workers but lacked proper testing materials, which they said a World Health Organization team would bring by Tuesday.

But scores of workers failed to present themselves for tests. After years of repressive and corrupt military rule, many Nigerians shy away from any contact with officials.

Ibrahim Hassan, who worked at Sambawa Farms before it was quarantined last week, said his co-workers were worried about being taken away somewhere by the health officials if they tested positive for bird flu.

"Many people are afraid to come," he said.

Nigerian officials have tried to contain the disease by burning chickens and other birds suspected of being infected across the north, but poultry markets continue to operate and birds are being shipped around the country despite international recommendations to stop those practices.


Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Johannesburg, South Africa, Daniel Balint-Kurti in Lagos, Nigeria, Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, and Oloche Samuel in Kano, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

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