Ethiopia investigates cases of bird flu among pigeons

Ethiopia is investigating suspected cases of bird flu among pigeons found dead in the capital and the eastern Somali region, an official said Friday. The dead birds have been discovered around drinking wells in eastern Ethiopia and at two locations in the capital, Addis Ababa. Scientists have completed initial tests on eight birds from three locations, officials said.

"Before we can rule out avian flu we have to complete our investigations," said Dr. Seleshi Zewdie, head of the animal health department at the Agriculture Ministry.

Results are expected later next week, but Ethiopia needs proper testing kits before all examinations can be completed, he said. The reports of the dead birds, all received in the last two weeks, showed that the early warning alert system set up by the government was working, he said. "All dead birds should be tested," he said. "It is difficult to rule out avian influenza until we have completed the tests, but it is not likely."

The migratory birds that are believed to have brought the H5N1 strain of bird flu to Europe are headed across the Middle East and into Africa. The H5N1 outbreak began in 2003 in Asia, where it has devastated flocks and infected humans, killing at least 68 people. Experts worry that bird flu outbreaks in Africa, with its strained infrastructure, are likely to be poorly reported and poorly managed. The experts want to keep a close eye on H5N1, fearing it could mutate into a virus that can be passed easily to and between humans and trigger a deadly global human flu epidemic, reports the AP. I.L.

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