Ivory Coast confirms avian flu in birds

May 5, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The Ivory Coast government this week confirmed the presence of H5N1 avian influenza in birds, making it at least the sixth African country confronting the virus, according to news services.

Laboratory results from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) revealed that seven chickens, nine ducks, and a sparrow hawk found in Abidjan—the country's largest city and its economic center—were infected with the H5N1 strain, according to a May 3 Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

Officials identified three separate outbreaks in different parts of the city in late April. The government had been awaiting test results from an OIE reference lab in Padua, Italy, since then.

Starting next week, officials plan to slaughter all poultry sold in Abidjan, a city of 5 million people, according to AFP.

The Ivory Coast ministry for animal production said that $11.7 million has been earmarked to reimburse poultry vendors and to develop a system for identifying disease-free chickens. The government also plans to improve how it informs and advises the public about avian flu.

Other African countries that have confirmed H5N1 avian flu since February are Nigeria, Egypt, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. Sudan has reported an H5 virus in birds, but H5N1 has not yet been confirmed there, according to the OIE. Egypt is the only African country with human cases so far (13 cases with 5 deaths).

In related news, experts warned European countries and the United States not to let their guard down against H5N1, even though the spring bird migration from Africa appears to be waning, according to a Reuters report today.

Thus far there have been no recorded cases of avian flu transmitted by migrating birds from Africa, according to the story. France, for example, reported that none of its 60 wild bird cases has come from Africa.

Some European countries have begun easing bans on keeping domestic poultry outdoors.

Some conservation groups, according to the Reuters article, deny that bird migration plays the major role in the spread of avian flu, saying that the international trade in poultry is more to blame.

Some animal-health experts, however, contend that migration is key. Christianne Bruschke, DVM, PhD, head of the OIE avian flu task force, said, "My firm belief is that the migration of birds carries the virus over big distances."

In Indonesia, which has been criticized for not responding aggressively enough to avian flu, officials announced this week a 3-year pilot project to fight the disease in Tangerang, a municipality outside Jakarta, according to a May 4 AFP report.

The idea is to apply the national plan to a local area and measure results. The $5 million project in an area of 3 million people includes bolstering epidemiologic surveillance of animals and humans, increasing poultry vaccinations, and rapidly responding to outbreaks with quarantine and movement controls, AFP reported.

The project would also enhance biosecurity by restructuring the traditional "wet markets" where live birds are sold, often under unhygienic conditions, the story said.

Indonesia has reported the second most human H5N1 fatalities worldwide, after Vietnam, according to World Health Organization data.

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