Niger isolates suspected bird flu farm as region takes precautions

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Niger has identified a suspected outbreak of avian flu on a chicken farm in the southern town of Maradi, near the border with Nigeria which has confirmed cases of H5N1 bird flu in several northern states.

Authorities in Niger said late on Wednesday they had isolated the farm and banned the transport of all poultry out of the town, the third largest in the country, as they waited for samples to be tested in Italy.

The suspected cases in Niger come a week after neighboring Burkina Faso also confirmed an outbreak of H5N1 avian flu.

A number of nations in the region, where borders are highly porous and millions rely on poultry farming as an income earner, last faced a major outbreak of bird flu in 2006.

Bangana Ibrahim, Niger's livestock minister, said authorities suspected bird flu on the Maradi farm after more than half of the 2,440 chickens on it died.

Ibrahim said that all poultry imports from any nation that had confirmed bird flu had been banned as of April 7. Ivory Coast and Mali have imposed similar preventative measures.

For now there was no risk of human infection in Ivory Coast, said Dr. Daouda Coulibaly, head of epidemic surveillance at the ministry of health, who worked to contain the 2006 outbreak.

"Currently we’re in the phase of monitoring animal health," he told Reuters. "If at some point it’s confirmed there are cases among our poultry, we’ll roll out phase two, which is to protect the population because, in being exposed to that poultry, they too could be infected."

At least five people have died from bird flu in Egypt this year.

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