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Bird flu strain in Nigeria already known to scientists

Paris, 13 August 2008 : During routine surveillance in Nigeria for highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry, one chicken and one duck sampled in June and July 2008 at the live bird markets of Gombe and Kebbi, were found positive for the H5N1 virus. This was the first positive finding in Nigeria of the disease since the last reported case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in January 2008. The new outbreak was reported promptly to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) by the veterinary authority of Nigeria on 24 July 2008 .

An epidemiological investigation was initiated and samples were send to the OIE/FAO reference laboratory, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie in Padova, Italy, for further investigation. The laboratory is part of OFFLU, the worldwide OIE/FAO avian influenza laboratory network.

Tests conducted at the laboratory confirmed that the virus from Gombe closely resembles the virus isolated from wild birds in Central Europe ( Romania and the Czech Republic ) in 2007. It is the first detection of this strain on the African continent. It is still unclear how the virus of this specific sublineage was introduced into Africa .

Further investigations on additional isolates of the virus from Kebbi, Kano and Katsina states in Nigeria are in progress at the laboratory in Padova.

“This finding supports the consensus amongst scientists that avian influenza infections caused by viruses of the H5N1 subtype are still a concern for animal health and that continuous surveillance, early detection and reporting are essential to understand the evolution of the situation” said OIE Deputy Director General, Dr Gideon Brückner. He emphasised that this incident was not caused by a new strain of the virus and that there is no evidence of increased human health risks linked to the novel introduction of this strain into Africa .