Vigilance Needed in Fight Against H5N1 Bird Flu in Africa

AFRICA - The outbreak in Cameroon has brought the number of Central and West African countries battling highly pathogenic avian influenza up to six, with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation calling for heightened surveillance and prevention efforts.
calendar icon 14 July 2016
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The recent confirmation on Cameroonian chicken farms puts poultry production in the country and its neighbours at high risk, and raises concern the virus may be spreading southwards. The strain can infect and cause death in humans and kills poultry at a high rate.

It has also been found in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria. Nigeria continues to be most affected with the total number of outbreaks exceeding 750 with nearly 3.5 million birds dead or culled.

"We're looking at a quickly spreading disease that has devastating effects on livelihoods in communities," said Abebe Haile Gabriel, FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa.

"H5N1 causes major losses of nutritious food and threatens farmers' livelihoods, particularly in resource-poor environments where governments have difficulty providing financial compensation for losses," he said, adding that "trade restrictions often pose an additional hardship on already struggling economies."

Response interventions include culling infected and exposed poultry, disinfecting premises and markets and safely disposing of dead birds. Veterinary officers are encouraged to trace the disease sources and potential spread points with the ultimate goal of disease elimination.

A major concern is that the disease may become endemic in the entire region, particularly in Nigeria. For that reason, FAO said producers and traders need to be made aware about the clinical signs of the disease symptoms, how and to whom to report it, and implement good hygiene practices to halt its spread.

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