Spreading bird flu in Nigeria could easily jump to people

The spread of a deadly bird flu strain in Nigeria has yet to cause any confirmed human cases of the disease, but it could still easily infect people, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

"There's really no time frame because as long as the virus is circulating, it could jump into humans," said Dick Thompson, spokesman for the U.N. health agency on infectious diseases.

Two states in northern Nigeria, Katsina and Zamfara, have confirmed cases of H5N1 this week, meaning that five of the west African country's 36 states have been affected.

"Whenever the virus is present we're going to keep monitoring and there'll be intensified surveillance in health clinics to identify people who may have had contact with sick or diseased poultry, and then are running fevers or look like they have influenza," Thompson told reporters.

It is fairly simple to identify people who have been infected with H5N1, but it can take much longer to get confirmation that people don't have the disease, Thompson said. An initial negative often then requires further tests.

"So there's no time frame. Initially it can take up to two weeks to get samples, to get them transported and then it can take a longer time to actually discount these people," he added, reports the AP.


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