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Bird Flu - Archives


Nigeria - It's Official
The WHO's regular "Cumulative Number of Confirmed Human Cases of Avian Influenza" report now contains one extra country - Nigeria.

Since late-2003, a total of 271 cases of human bird flu infection have been reported in 11 countries, with 165 deaths.

Vietnam has recorded 93 cases, with 42 deaths. Indonesia has recorded 81 cases, with 63 deaths.

February 5th, 2007

Bird Flu in Nigeria - Alarm and Shrugs
Did a Nigerian lady die of bird flu? According to WHO:

The government of Nigeria has announced the death from suspected avian influenza infection in a 22-year-old female from Lagos. She died on 16 January 2007. The mother of the 22-year-old died on 4 January with similar symptoms.

Preliminary tests on the samples from the 22-year-old were positive for influenza A/H5. Samples have now been sent to a WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza for confirmation. Results are expected shortly. No samples were taken from the mother. reports:

The confirmation by the federal government on Wednesday that a Nigerian woman who died recently in Lagos tested positive to H5N1 bird flu virus, has been challenged by the Vetenary Medical Association Nigeria [VMN] which described the test as inconclusive.

Similarly, the minister of Agriculture Mallam Adamu Bello admitted that the woman probably didn't die of bird flu as claimed, saying the result of the confirmatory test currently going on in Italy could prove otherwise.

Reuters headlines its own report: "Bird flu death alarms some Nigerians, others shrug"
February 3rd, 2007


Don't Forget Africa
For a while now it seems that most bird flu news is coming out of Asia - particularly Indonesia. So the World Health Organization serves a timely warning:

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday warned that unless African countries are adequately prepared, a pandemic of avian influenza would remain a threat to the continent.

"This potentially catastrophic situation requires strong government leadership for the finalisation and timely implementation of national multisectoral preparedness and response plans," Dr Luis Sambo, WHO regional director for Africa, told the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

August 29th, 2006


Expanding in Africa
Bird flu springs many surprises. Usually they're unpleasant, but a happy surprise - confounding many experts - has been the paucity of H5N1 outbreaks in Africa. This could change.

Yahoo News reports:

While avian influenza has been successfully checked in Western Europe and much of Southeast Asia apart from Indonesia, it is still expanding in Africa and will remain a threat for years to come, FAO Deputy Director-General David Harcharik told a high- level meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council in Geneva today.

...Mr. Harcharik cited difficulties in enforcing appropriate control measures such as culling, farmer compensation and checks on animal movements in African countries. Another complication was illegal trade in poultry.

"Until such trade is effectively checked by stronger official veterinary authorities, and until better surveillance, alert-response, diagnostics and reporting is achieved, the risk will remain with us," Mr. Harcharik said.

July 11th, 2006


Ostriches Culled in South Africa
South African authorities have culled 60 ostriches on bird flu concerns. However, H5N1 is not suspected.
July 4th, 2006


Cameroon Confirmed

Cameroon has become the fourth country in Africa – after Nigeria, Niger and Egypt – to report bird flu, although it is still not known if it is H5N1. Meanwhile, testing is being carried out in Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia and Sierra Leone.

March 13th, 2006


Third African Country Hit – Egypt, Nigeria, and Now Niger

Bird flu has jumped the border from Nigeria to Niger. Meanwhile, in Nigeria a poultry producers group says the disease is spreading there, because farmers are reluctant to notify the authorities of outbreaks. Poultry farmers in Ghana have denied that the virus has arrived in their country.

February 28th, 2006


Europe Good, Africa Bad?

There’s quite a strong case to be made that the discovery of bird flu in Italy and Greece is a good thing. The reason? Given bird migration patterns, it was pretty inevitable that H5N1 would arrive in Western Europe, and its quick detection shows that systems are working to protect farmers, consumers and the general population.


In contrast, the discovery of the flu in Nigeria suggests that H5N1 has been rampant on the continent for some months.


The New York Times sums it up:


The discovery of the Italian outbreak seemed to be a model of early detection, underlining how bird flu can be controlled in countries that have the money and the scientific resources to do it.


Outbreaks in poor countries like Nigeria, Turkey and Iraq percolated for months before they were discovered, allowing the virus to spread widely to commercial chicken flocks and even to humans.


…"There is no immediate danger for our country," Mauro Delogu, an Italian virologist at the University of Bolgona, told ANSA, "because our system of surveillance is efficient and has not contaminated bird farms."


Concerning Nigeria, that country’s Vanguard newspaper presents a fascinating interview with Emmanuel Ijewere, formerly president of the Red Cross of Nigeria and now retired and running a poultry (and other meat) business.


He explains in considerable detail why Nigeria is ill-prepared to combat a major bird flu outbreak, or other kind of emergency. One of his examples:


Disaster management in Nigeria is almost zap. If there is a major disaster in Nigeria, we wouldn’t be able to cope. In Lagos, in particular, the fire brigade that was set up at independence still exists today. But, how many vehicles do they have? And they have been honest enough to say if your building is above three floors and there is fire, you are on your own. Because their hoses cannot get there, even when it gets there, they do not have water….So, there is this whole problem of lack of preparedness. God forbid, if anyone of us should have fire in the house, you must put it out by yourself.  Because, if he is going to wait for the fire brigade, the fire would have consumed the place before they arrive, and when they arrive they will do nothing.  We are all on our own. There is no preparedness, we need to address that, it’s very very important.

February 13th, 2006


Nigeria – Much Worse to Come?

No more news from Nigeria in the past 24 hours – and that has to be good – but officials are worried that things could get much worse. Voice of America reports:


Alex Thiermann of the World Organization for Animal Health, which works closely with the United Nations, says Africa's first documented case of avian flu is of great concern for the entire continent.


"And it's something the OIC has been saying for awhile, that were the disease to get to Africa - it's a continent where most countries have very weak veterinary infrastructure - the rapidity to which the disease can be fought, and how quickly we can eliminate it, has to do very directly related to the quality of the veterinary infrastructures," he said.


Experts are concerned that sub-Saharan Africa, with about 600 million of the world's poorest people, is particularly ill-equipped to deal with a major health crisis. 


They say any mass slaughters, such as those used to control the virus in Asia, will be difficult.


The BBC seems to confirm this:


The WHO's regional director in Africa said international support had arrived but most of it in the form of technical advice and not what the region needs most - money. Police marksmen, ordered to cull 180 ostriches at a farm in the virus-stricken north, killed only 120 birds before running out of bullets, the Associated Press news agency reported.


And hints of worse to come are in this on-the-spot report from Reuters:


Nigerian poultry farm workers used their bare hands to throw dead chickens onto fires as village children stood by to watch in an area where the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been found. Villagers said their domestic poultry were dying too, reinforcing suspicions that bird flu may be present not only in large commercial farms but also in people's backyards in Africa's most populous country.


At a farm near Hawan Dawaki village in the northern state of Kano, where two farms have confirmed cases of H5N1, workers in normal clothes and sandals carried handfuls of dead and dying chickens to a field to burn them.


"We are working on this farm without taking care of our health, but what else can we do? We are calling on the government to come and help us," said Alhaj Danliti, the manager of the farm, which is a stone's throw away from the village.


He said the farm had lost 10,000 chickens, almost its entire stock, and he did not know the nature of their disease. Several chickens collapsed and died with a yellow liquid leaking from their beaks.

February 11th, 2006


Bird Flu in Africa

It’s the news we have all been dreading – poverty-stricken, AIDS-weakened Africa has been hit with bird flu. I have already written several times about experts’ fears of the havoc that could be unleashed were H5N1 to reach the continent. So far no human infection has been reported.


According to the World Health Organization:


At present, the only confirmed H5N1 outbreak is thought to be confined to a large commercial farm, located in Kaduna State in the northern part of [Nigeria], where thousands of chickens were kept in battery cages. Investigations are urgently needed to determine whether the outbreak, which began almost a month ago, has spread from the farm to affect household flocks. Poultry deaths in the adjacent province of Kano have been reported, but the cause has not yet been determined.


The most immediate public health need is to reduce opportunities for human infections to occur. Investigations of human cases in Asia and elsewhere have identified close contact with diseased or dead household poultry as the most important source of human exposure to the virus.


In Nigeria, as in other parts of Africa, most village households maintain free-ranging flocks of poultry as a source of income and food. Close human contact with poultry is extensive.


The Washington Post and International Herald Tribune have further reports.

February 9th, 2006


Is Africa Next?

The coming few weeks will be critical, as millions of birds engage in their annual migration from Europe and Eastern Asia to Southern Africa. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quotes the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Chief Veterinarian Dr Joseph Domenech, as stating about bird flu:


It will arrive in Africa in the following weeks, particularly eastern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa. And the concern is that the veterinary services and the farmer systems are not in a good position to detect immediately, it will spread to domestic poultry farms.


A WHO risk assessment for Africa is here.

October 30th, 2005


Africa Vulnerable

Reuters carries an extensive report on Africa’s preparations (or lack of them) for a bird flu outbreak. Some key points:


The main risk is seen along East Africa's Rift Valley, where impoverished rural populations are already struggling under the twin disease burdens of AIDS and malaria. Birds migrating from Asia to the northern hemisphere for winter stop over in freshwater ponds, dams and lakes, possible conduits for the virus, along the Valley -- a vast geographical and geological feature that runs north to south for 5,000 km (3,100 miles) from northern Syria to central Mozambique.


East Africa is more vulnerable to bird flu than Europe and its lack of preparedness causes grave concern, a U.N. food agency expert said on Monday. Joseph Domenech, veterinary chief at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said the wild bird migratory patterns that had brought the virus to Turkey and Romania ended in East Africa, making it likely the disease would arrive there.


"There are three big migration routes through Africa. There is a west African one that hugs the coastline and involves birds from western and northern Europe," said Doug Harebottle of the Avian Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. Harebottle said the other routes took birds from central Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia down through the Rift Valley, while birds from further east in Asia flew along Africa's Indian Ocean coast.

October 20th, 2005