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Nigeria Probes Possible Bird Flu Outbreak Near Niger

Posted by Bloomberg on 2006/02/14 | Views: 415 |

Nigeria Probes Possible Bird Flu Outbreak Near Niger


Nigeria is investigating a possible outbreak of bird flu near its northern border with Niger as Ukraine's government said officials are probing possible new cases in the Crimean peninsula.

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria is investigating a possible outbreak of bird flu near its northern border with Niger as Ukraine's government said officials are probing possible new cases in the Crimean peninsula.

Agriculture officials in Nigeria's Katsina state destroyed more than 1,000 chickens suspected of being infected with the H5N1 avian influenza strain in the state capital, the Nigerian government said yesterday in a statement. An initial poultry outbreak, Africa's first, was confirmed last week.

``The virus is moving quite substantially into new locations,'' David Nabarro, a United Nations envoy, said yesterday before flying to Ukraine. ``My attention is pretty much equally divided between Europe, the southern Balkans and Black Sea area, Africa and south Asia.''

Nigeria, with almost 140 million people, is Africa's most- populous country. It borders Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Ukraine's neighbors include European Union members Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The disease in birds creates more opportunity for human infection and increases the risk of the virus changing into a pandemic form. Since December 2003, H5N1 has sickened at least 169 people, killing 91.

``There are some quite tricky challenges facing everybody working in Crimea and I shall be engaging with various government people,'' Nabarro, who is advising UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on avian and human influenza, said in a telephone interview yesterday. He didn't say what the challenges were.

Villages Quarantined

An H5 avian-flu subtype was found in 24 villages in Crimea and the village of Tsevetochnoe was quarantined, the Ukraine Health Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

The former Soviet republic of 47 million people has reported at least 33 outbreaks of avian flu since November, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

The Paris-based organization said today more than 40,000 poultry had been culled in the Shevchenkovskiy district of Ukraine's Kharkiv region after Newcastle disease, a type of avian virus, infected 13,346 fowl.

The H5N1 avian influenza strain, which first sickened people in Hong Kong in 1997, has infected birds in more than 20 countries on three continents.

A wild swan tested positive for an H5 subtype of avian flu in Slovenia, the European Commission said on Feb. 12, a day after Italy and Greece confirmed the H5N1 virus in swans. An H5N1 outbreak in wild swans in Bulgaria was confirmed by the commission yesterday.

Nigerian Outbreaks

In Nigeria, bird flu may have emerged in eight of the country's 36 states, the Associated Press reported, without saying where it got the information.

``Rumors'' of outbreaks in Africa outside Nigeria are being investigated, Juan Lubroth, head of infectious diseases with the animal health service of the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization, said in an interview yesterday. Lubroth declined to say which countries are being investigated.

The World Bank will increase its investment in Nigeria to about $500 million from $400 million in the next six months, This Day newspaper reported on its Web site, citing Lars Thunell, executive vice president of the World Bank Group's International Finance Corp. division. The group announced a $50 million interest-free loan to Nigeria that needs to be repaid in 35 years, the report said.

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