- The government of Burkina Faso has announced that three cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus have been detected at a poultry farm in Gampéla, just outside the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou. The bird flu outbreak had been confirmed at a laboratory, Livestock Minister Toemoko Konaté stated yesterday.
Burkinabe authorities had carried out 65 tests in different regions of the country after rumours of a bird flu outbreak in the country emerges last months. The tests had been sent to a laboratory run by the Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in Rome.
OIE on Monday had told Burkinabe authorities that three of the samples tested positive on the feared H5N1 virus, known to wipe out large bird populations in short time and with the potential of infecting humans. Today, the Ouagadougou government formally advised the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a bird flu outbreak in Burkina Faso.
Meanwhile, Minister Konaté urged the Burkinabe population to maintain calm and not to overreact. Authorities had already ordered quarantine measures at the affected poultry farm and was organising the culling of all chicken at the site, he said. A three-kilometre "security belt" has been established around the site and all birds in that area were to be slaughtered and destructed.
Experts disagree on whether Burkina Faso is well-prepared to meet the challenges it faces through the bird flu outbreak. Local sources claim the country is prepared, following recent outbreaks in neighbour countries and assistance from OIT and WHO. Two million doses of vaccines have been deposited in the country, being ready to immunise poultry in the Ouagadougou region.
Other experts however fear that Burkina Faso - which is ranked as the world's third poorest country - would not have the resources to effectively control the spread of the dangerous animal disease and at the same time educate its population on how to avoid infections. The veterinary infrastructure of Burkina Faso was today described as "particularly weak".
So far, there are however no indications that the avian flu may have spread outside the "security belt" that has already been established. Since early March, Burkinabe authorities have tested suspicious bird deaths regularly at foreign laboratories and no other region has so far delivered positive tests. With a little bit of luck, the first and only cases of the disease have been observed and isolated by vigilant citizens.
The Burkinabe have been aware of a possible outbreak for more than a month and the sales and consumption of poultry and eggs has already dropped dramatically. Authorities have had to intervene, informing that the consumption of properly heated poultry is not dangerous if treated in a hygienic way. Public awareness of the disease seems great.
Burkina Faso is the fifth African country to be affected by the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu. The Burkinabe outbreak is seen in connection to the outbreak that started in Nigeria in February and later has spread to neighbouring Niger - which also borders Burkina Faso - and has caused isolated cases in northern Cameroon. Nigerian authorities hold that the disease came to the country with illegally imported poultry, probably from China or Turkey. Illegal poultry trade is believed to have transported the disease to neighbour countries.
Simultaneously, there is an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Egypt, which is not seen in connection to the West African outbreak, but is believed to be have been introduced by poultry illegally imported from Turkey. Egypt is also the only African country where human have been affected by the disease. The Cairo Health Ministry has confirmed five human cases, of which two have died from the infection, while two have totally recovered from symptoms.
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