Jul 25, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Animal health officials in Nigeria today reported finding the H5N1 avian influenza virus at two live bird markets, as officials in Hong Kong announced they would go ahead with a buyout of poultry farmers and merchants to reduce the risk of H5N1 outbreaks in the city.
The H5N1 findings in Nigeria came during routine surveillance, according to an epidemiology report submitted by Nigeria today to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
On Jun 27, veterinary officials detected the virus in a chicken at a live bird market in Kebbi state, in northwestern Nigeria. On Jul 19, animal health workers found the virus in a duck at a live bird market in Gombe state in the east-central part of the country. The reports did not say if bird deaths were reported in the area or if the birds that were sampled appeared sick.
A detailed investigation was under way to determine the source of the virus, which might be contact between poultry and wild birds, the OIE report said. Officials said they have restricted the movement of birds inside the country and have disinfected the areas where the birds were kept. No birds were culled.
Nigeria's last H5N1 outbreak occurred in October 2007, according to an overview from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Buyout plan proceeds
In Hong Kong, officials today announced they would proceed with a buyout of poultry farmers and market sellers to reduce the infection threat posed by live bird sales, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
In early June, the H5N1 virus was found in birds in four market stalls, which led to the culling of thousands of birds and a 6-week suspension of live poultry sales at the market, according to previous reports. City officials also banned poultry from overnight stays in the market.
Only 72% of the poultry sellers accepted Hong Kong's buyout offer, which fell short of the city's goal of shuttering 85% of the vendors, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today. However, the government extended the deadline for sellers to take the buyout until Sep 24, the report said.
At its current level, the buyout will reduce the number of poultry sold in the markets each day from 40,000 to 11,000, the AP reported.
"This is a substantial reduction of live chickens in our markets, and we've substantially reduced the risk of transmission of avian influenza to humans in our markets," York Chow, Hong Kong's secretary of food and health, told the AP.
In other developments, the agriculture ministry in Vietnam has reported recent H5N1 outbreaks in three provinces, according to reports from Xinhua, China's state news agency.
The virus recently hit two southern provinces, Tra Vinh and Dong Thap, according to a Jul 21 Xinhua report. In the Dong Thap outbreak, the virus struck 350 backyard birds at a household in Chau Thanh district.
The agriculture ministry also confirmed an outbreak in Nghe An province in central Vietnam, according to a Jul 22 report from Xinhua. Starting Jul 18, that outbreak struck 30 chickens and 160 ducks at household in Nghi Loc district.
Vietnam has had several H5N1 outbreaks this year, mainly in areas near the Mekong Delta.
South Korea to extend surveillance
Elsewhere, agriculture ministers in South Korea on Jul 22 said the country would monitor for avian flu year-round, rather than just when migratory birds are in the country, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Jul 23. In April, the virus resurfaced in South Korea after a year's hiatus and spread to nearly every part of the country.
The ministry said it would regularly monitor migratory and resident birds and would inspect chicken and duck farms every other week for both high- and low-pathogenic avian influenza stains, the AFP report said.
Officials said that in the past they monitored birds for influenza from November to March, the season when migratory birds are in South Korea and the weather is most favorable for the spread of the disease, AFP reported.
In related developments, a veterinarian at Chungnam National University in South Korea said scientists isolated the H5N1 virus from a dead cat, according to a report this week from the newspaper Chosun Ilbo. Kim Chul-joong, a professor at the university's college of veterinary medicine, said the cat was found dead along the Mangyeong River in Gimje, North Jeolla province, where the first outbreak was reported in April.
Kim told Chosun Ilbo that tests were underway at the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service to determine if the virus caused the cat's death.
Meanwhile, two rounds of avian flu exercises in Laos are helping the country to protect itself against the H5N1 virus, the FAO said in a statement yesterday. The FAO said in late June it had completed a second drill in Oudomxay, in northwestern Laos. The 4-day exercise brought together 60 participants from provincial and local agriculture, forestry, health, law enforcement, information, and cultural groups.
The FAO said the exercises tested the area's preparedness and capacity to respond quickly to outbreaks and helped forge better relationships among all of the groups. Last year the FAO spearheaded a similar exercise in Juang Prabang province, also in the northwestern part of the country.
"There are many ways to approach HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] preparedness, but FAO has found from experiences in a number of countries . . .that simulation exercises are among the most effective," the agency said.
Jul 23 FAO report
OIE reports on 2008 outbreaks
FAO overview of global H5N1 outbreaks