Posted by By Daniel Balint-Kurti on
Nigeria ignored international recommendations for stopping bird flu, keeping poultry markets open on Sunday and letting people move their birds around most of the country unrestricted.
LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigeria ignored international recommendations for stopping bird flu, keeping poultry markets open on Sunday and letting people move their birds around most of the country unrestricted.
Officials were awaiting word on whether the virus already had infected people in Africa's most populous nation. Test results were pending on two sick children near a farm where the H5N1 strain was first detected among poultry. Their families also were being tested.
Tope Ajakaiye, a spokesman for Nigeria's Agriculture Ministry, said there were no plans to close poultry markets or restrict the trade or movement of poultry as recommended by international organizations.
"We don't want to cause a situation where there will be much panic or alarm," Ajakaiye said.
Indonesia said Sunday that the World Health Organization had confirmed that two women there had died from the H5N1 bird flu strain.
The two deaths are expected to bring Indonesia's official human death toll from the virus to 18.
A European Union laboratory was testing samples to determine whether the strain that killed a swan in Slovenia near the Austrian border was H5N1.
On Sunday, Slovenian authorities imposed strict controls in the area. Poultry there will be isolated, tested for the virus and killed if infected.
Italy and Greece put similar measures in place Saturday after the H5N1 strain was found for the first time inside the European Union.
Austria's southern border province of Carinthia on Sunday also introduced strict controls of livestock and food from Slovenia.
Meanwhile, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived Saturday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, with protective clothing for 200 Nigerian health officials who will slaughter birds, said Nigerian Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello.
Two officials from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization also arrived to help determine a plan of action with local authorities.
Bird flu has killed at least 88 people in Asia and Turkey since 2003 and ravaged poultry stocks across Asia, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 140 million birds, according to a WHO report Thursday.
Health officials fear the H5N1 strain will 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.
The virus has been confirmed at five farms in northern Nigeria, killing at least 100,000 birds. Nigeria has about 130 million people and 140 million poultry.
Bird farms across northern Nigeria are under quarantine, said Junaidu Maina, director of Nigeria's livestock department, though he did not say how many of Nigeria's 36 states were under the order. Health officials said that on Monday they plan to screen workers on infected farms.
Neighboring Benin and Niger have banned poultry imports from Nigeria, where authorities visited northern bird farms Saturday to destroy chickens believed to be infected.
Protective clothing and hygienic practices to reduce the chance of infection were spotty or absent.
At one farm, veterinary officials slashed chickens' necks, dumped them in pits and set them on fire. Nearby, police armed with automatic weapons finished off a group of 180 ostriches after running out of bullets a day earlier.
Only one of four veterinary workers destroying birds at another farm wore protective clothing.
Those taking part in the culling were sprayed with disinfectant beforehand. Six farmworkers in Kano used their bare hands to load dead chickens into wheelbarrows and dump them in a pit to be burned.
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