- A new strain of avian influenza has been detected for the first time in Nigeria, UN agency announced on Tuesday. The finding comes in the wake of Nigeria recently reporting two new Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks in the states of Katsina and Kano.
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported on Monday that strain of avian influenza recently found in Nigeria was genetically different from strains in previous African outbreaks in Nigeria in 2006 and 2007.
Scott Newman of FAO's Animal Health Service warned that detection of a new avian influenza virus strain in Africa raises serious concerns as it remains unknown how this strain has been introduced to the continent.
"The new strain which has never been reported before in Africa, is more similar to strains previously identified in Europe, Asia and the Middle East in 2007," FAO said.
FAO further said it is unlikely that wild birds have carried the strain to Africa, since this year's southerly migration into Africa has not really started; suggesting that other channels for virus introduction including international trade or illegal and unreported movement of poultry could be the sources.
Since avian influenza epidemic caused by the H5N1 strain started five years ago in Asia, disease has affected more than 60 countries, most of which have succeeded to eliminate the virus from poultry, FAO said.
Head of Nigeria's bird flu control programme Mohammed Saidu said H5N1 strain was discovered last month in a duck at a poultry market in northeast Gombe state. "Since that location is among 24 wetlands we have in Nigeria and along two migratory routes, we suspect that the strain could have come from migratory birds," Mr Saidu said.
It rarely infects people but has killed 243 out of 385 known to have been infected since 2003, according to World Health Organisation, while it has also killed or forced slaughter of 300 million birds.
In Nigeria, the virus was first confirmed in February 2006 and infected poultry in 25 states before being contained, but the west African economic powerhouse has recently reported two new highly pathogenic bird flu outbreaks in northern states of Katsina and Kano.
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