Benin confirms its first H5N1 outbreaks

Dec 17, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Tests in Italy have confirmed the first poultry outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in the West African country of Benin, according to news services.

Agriculture Minister Robert Dovonou said suspected cases found on two farms earlier this month were confirmed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in Padua, Italy, according to a Dec 15 report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The farms are north of Porto Novo, the capital, and in Cotonou, the commercial capital, both in Benin's southern coastal strip, AFP and Reuters reported.

Benin is surrounded by countries that have faced poultry outbreaks within the last 2 years: Nigeria, Togo, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Nigeria has had one human H5N1 case. Ivory Coast and Ghana are other West African states that have had poultry outbreaks.

Benin officials reported the two suspected outbreaks to the OIE on Dec 5, saying 100 birds had died and 245 had been killed to stop the outbreak. Most of the birds were chickens, but eight turkeys were among affected poultry on the Cotonou farm.

According to the Reuters report, published today, health experts have expressed concern that Benin's Voodoo priests could be at risk for avian flu because of their practice of tearing out the throats of live chickens in ritual sacrifices.

In other developments, the agriculture ministry in Saudi Arabia destroyed 13,500 ostriches to control an H5N1 outbreak on a farm in the Al-Kharj region, about 50 miles south of Riyadh, according to a report today by ArabNews, an English-language newspaper in the country. An AFP report said the outbreak was discovered Dec 13.

As a result of the outbreak, city officials in Riyadh have ordered poultry sellers and restaurants not to sell ostrich meat, the newspaper said.

Saudi Arabia has had a series of poultry outbreaks that began Nov 12, according to previous reports. ArabNews said 4 million birds have been culled in 14 outbreaks.

Meanwhile, H5N1 was found in a flock of 11 chickens in eastern Germany, according to a Dec 15 Associated Press (AP) report. After several chickens died, two were tested by a federal lab and found infected, the story said. The flock was in the Oberhavel region, northwest of Berlin.

The other surviving chickens were destroyed, and poultry within a 2-mile radius of the flock were being checked, the AP reported.

Germany's last reported poultry outbreaks were in the provinces of Bavaria and Thuringia in August and September, according to German reports to the OIE. About 4,000 birds died and more than 336,000 were culled in those outbreaks.

See also:

OIE reports on Benin and Germany outbreaks

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