Burkina Faso confirms its first case of deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu

Authorities confirmed Burkina Faso's first case of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain and an international animal health agency warned Tuesday that the development marked a "progressive spread" of the virus across Africa.

The government of the West African country said late Monday that an Italian lab confirmed H5N1 in samples from three birds removed from a restaurant in its central Kadiogo province. The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health said 123 helmeted guinea fowl were found dead in the region.

Authorities responded with measures including the quarantine and screening of birds, radio and TV announcements and disinfection of the infected zone, according to a government statement. Vaccinations, culls and new surveillance measures were planned.

"It's very worrying because Burkina Faso is a big exporter of live birds to Ivory Coast, in the hundreds of thousands of birds," said Bernard Vallat, director of the World Organization for Animal Health.

"Unfortunately, the foreseen scenario is coming true ... a slow but progressive spread of the virus on the African continent," Vallat said.

Burkina Faso is the fifth African country in which H5N1 has been confirmed, joining Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Egypt. The WHO has reported 190 human cases of bird flu worldwide 107 of them fatal and the strain has forced the slaughter of millions of birds as the disease has spread from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

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