Laos, Togo report new avian influenza outbreaks

Sep 10, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A government official in Laos yesterday said the H5N1 avian influenza virus has been detected in ducks in one of the country's provinces, the same day Togo's health ministry announced that avian influenza struck a poultry farm near that country's capital.

Yong Chanthalangsy, a foreign ministry spokesman in Laos, said the finding prompted the culling of about 7,000 birds in a 1-km radius around the site, according to a report yesterday from Agence France-Presse (AFP). He told the news agency that no suspected human cases have been identified.

A Lao newspaper, the Vientiane Times, reported that the outbreak involved ducks in Luang Prabang province, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported yesterday. The outbreak began on Aug 27 when ducks began to die, the article said.

Laos' last H5N1 outbreaks occurred in February and March, hitting birds at Louang Namtha province in the northwestern part of the country, near the country's border with Myanmar and China, according to previous reports.

The country is now able to conduct its own H5N1 laboratory tests, according to the Xinhua article. Laos previously relied on facilities in Thailand and Vietnam, but now uses a laboratory that is under construction in Vientiane, the country's capital. The lab was funded by the Japanese government, the report said.

Meanwhile, the health ministry in Togo announced in a statement yesterday on the country's state-run television network that avian influenza has been confirmed at a poultry farm in the village of Agbata, near the capital Lome, the Associated Press (AP) reported today.

The statement did not say if the virus was the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain. The government's Web site said samples from dead chickens were sent to laboratories in Ghana and Italy to identify the virus subtype, according to a report today from Reuters.

The outbreak site is a poultry farm in the southern part of the country, not far from the coast, that contained more than 4,500 birds. The ministry didn't say how many died, but noted that more than 80% of those that were sick died, the AP reported.

Togo's agriculture and livestock ministry tightened a ban on poultry import and stepped up control efforts at ports, markets, and borders with Ghana, Benin, and Burkina Faso, Reuters reported today In late August, two chickens from a poultry market in Benin that were tested during routine surveillance tested positive for the H5N1 virus, according to previous reports.

Togo's last H5N1 outbreaks occurred in June 2007 at poultry farms in the southern part of the country, according to reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Those outbreaks were the first to be confirmed in Togo, which pushed the number of African countries that have been struck by the virus to 10.

See also:

Mar 19 CIDRAP News report "Turkey, Laos report more H5N1 in poultry"

Feb 12 CIDRAP News report "H5N1 strikes birds in Laos"

OIE reports on 2007 Togo outbreaks

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