Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nigeria confirms first human H5N1 bird flu death in country

Jan 31 - A 22-year-old woman died from bird flu after handling infected chicken, Nigeria said on Wednesday, confirming the first human fatality in sub-Saharan Africa.

The government believes three other people may have died of the H5N1 virus in Africa’s most populous nation, but tests proved inconclusive.

Nigeria is one of three countries regarded by experts as the weakest areas in the global attempt to stem the virus’s spread.

The Lagos woman’s mother also died after handling the same bird but tests on samples taken from her body were inconclusive.

Another member of the household in Nigeria’s commercial capital displayed symptoms of bird flu but was responding to treatment in hospital, Nweke said.

“The three people feathered and disembowelled the chicken so we believe that is how they were infected,” said Abdulsalam Nasidi, a health ministry official.

Direct contact with infected poultry is the most common way for people to catch bird flu. Millions of Nigerians keep poultry in their backyards and in the absence of refrigerators in most households, birds are transported and sold live, and killed just before eating.

The two other suspected human victims were in the north-eastern states of Borno and Taraba. Samples from the Lagos woman are being sent to foreign laboratories for confirmation.

This will trigger additional funding for a focused fight against the virus.

“It is an epidemic, the funding will be allocated from a disaster fund in the state budget,” Suzetta said on Wednesday.

“The handling of this will no longer be on an ad hoc basis, but it will be done comprehensively.” Indonesia said in December it planned to tackle the virus more forcefully and hoped to beat it by the end of 2007.

World Health Organisation spokesman Gregory Hartl said a human case of bird flu in Nigeria was to be expected because of the experience in other countries, such as Indonesia, with huge poultry populations where chickens and hens live in close proximity to humans.

“It does not change anything from a public health point of view,” Hartl said. “It had to happen sooner or later.”

Avian influenza article source: Reuters’ Alertnet

Posted by john T. on 01/31 at 10:23 AM
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