Avian Flu : West and Central Africa On High Alert

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday said that countries across West and Central Africa are on alert as the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 continues to spread across the region, a UN spokesman told reporters here Wednesday.

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Bird Flu

“The strain can infect and cause death in humans and kills poultry at a high rate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

Bird FluThe latest outbreaks were recently confirmed on chicken farms in Cameroon putting the poultry production in the country and its neighbors at high risk, he said. “This is the first time the disease has been found in Central Africa since 2006.”

This brings the number of countries that have battled bird flu in West and Central Africa to six, also including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria, he added.

Nigeria continues to be most affected with the total number of outbreaks exceeding 750 with nearly 3.5 million birds dead or culled. The newly recorded outbreaks in Cameroon raise significant concerns that the disease may be advancing southward, triggering national and global emergency responses to contain the disease, and health screenings of poultry workers.

FAO, meanwhile, is alerting neighboring governments to be vigilant and continue their heightened surveillance and prevention efforts, including common messaging to the public and data sharing between the public health and agriculture sectors.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has caused the death of tens of millions of poultry and losses of tens of billions of dollars worldwide since the virus first spread internationally in 2013 — in Cameroon alone, losses have added up to an estimated 20 million U.S. dollars, FAO quoted local media reports as saying. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/News Ghana

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