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TOGO: New bird flu outbreak confirmed


Photo: Pierre Holtz/IRIN
DAKAR, 22 June 2007 (IRIN) - Laboratory tests in Ghana confirmed that the H5N1 avian flu virus caused the sudden deaths of 2000 chickens at a farm near Togo’s capital Lome, the World Health Organisation representative in Togo told IRIN on 22 June.

It is the first time the virus has been detected in Togo, the seventh West African nation to have reported an outbreak. In neighbouring Nigeria, more than one million birds have been destroyed since the first outbreak there in February 2006; the virus has since been confirmed in 22 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The farm in Togo, in the town of Sigbehoue, 45km east of Lome, had received a shipment of chicks in February from neighbouring Ghana, according to a Reuters report.

Avian flu was detected in Ghana last May.

The virus is often passed from one region to another when infected birds are transported for sale, Katinka Debalogh, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Avian Flu response coordinator told IRIN. FAO says the virus is also spread through contaminated footwear, cages and egg crates.

“Industrial farms like this one [in Sigbehoue] typically see a lot of movement of live animals, so producers need to be careful about where the birds are coming from,” Debalogh said.

“We’re not yet aware of the precautions that were taken by the farm to prevent the disease, but commercial farms in Africa are often lacking in sound bio-security measures,” she added.

The area around the farm has reportedly been quarantined and the remaining birds on the farm have been culled to prevent the further spread of the disease.

Currently avian flu primarily affects only birds, but it can cause severe illness and death in humans. H5N1 has killed close to 200 people worldwide and has the potential to mutate into a strain more easily transmitted between humans.

FAO will send a response team to Lome on 23 June to assist the government in developing a strategy to contain the outbreak. “Togo will need to issue a decree preventing the movement of live birds across borders and make sure the public is aware of the risks,” Debalogh said.

ur/dh/np


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Avian Flu, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Environment

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.