Deadly bird flu strain found in two more Nigerian states

A virulent strain of bird flu was detected in two more northern Nigerian states and has been killing birds some 100,000 for weeks, Nigerian authorities said Thursday, with their campaign to combat the outbreak only just beginning.

Nigeria quarantined bird farms throughout its north and neighboring countries banned poultry imports to try to halt the march of the fatal strain, whose arrival on a poor continent little prepared to cope was first confirmed Wednesday in one Nigerian state.

By Thursday, Nigerian officials said the total was three states, an indication it had been spreading even as authorities tried to determine what was killing thousands of birds.

The World Health Organization said a massive public-awareness campaign in Africa's most-populous nation is crucial and that it was standing by to help.

"The single most important public health priority at this stage is to warn people about the dangers of close contact with sick or dead birds infected with H5N1," the agency said in a statement.

The H5N1 bird flu strain may be spreading undetected elsewhere in Africa, said Juan Lubroth, a senior animal health officer at the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Every country is at risk. Every country must prepare. There is a risk that outbreaks of H5N1 infection in birds could spread within Nigeria and into neighbouring countries," it said.

The first case to be confirmed was at a large commercial farm in Kaduna state owned by the country's sports minister, said Agriculture Ministry spokesman, Tope Ajakaiye.

The farm had a total of 46,000 chicken, geese and ostriches. About 40,000 of them died of bird flu and the other 6,000 were destroyed, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, known as the OIE, citing Nigerian officials, reports AP.

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