Germany, Nigeria find bird flu

Avian flu was confirmed in birds in both Nigeria and Germany.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | February 15, 2006

Governments are scrambling to prepare and respond after the avian flu was confirmed in birds in both Nigeria and Germany this week.

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) are now in Nigeria to investigate several cases of the avian flu in poultry. WHO experts are also in the country to help local government officials prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus to humans. Infected birds have been found in three northern Nigerian states, with the first infected bird found on Feb. 6.

The WHO director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, said Monday that concerns are high over the spread of the virus to humans because of the country's dense population.

"Nigeria is a densely populated country with a highly mobile population," said Sambo in a WHO news release. "Containing the outbreak in Nigeria - and elsewhere around the world where the disease has occurred - is crucial as this will save the world community a public health nightmare."

According to the release, "...other forms of support expected to be provided by WHO to the Nigerian government include technical assistance for social mobilization, active surveillance and case detection; strengthening of laboratories to facilitate investigations and confirmation of diagnosis; supply of personal protective equipment including security gears such as masks and gloves, and supply of laboratory reagents and drugs such as Tamiflu - an antiviral drug considered a first line of defence against avian influenza."

German health officials also announced this week that the H5N1 virus was found in two swans, sending government leaders into meetings about preparations and response. Some European countries are ordering farmers to keep their poultry inside barns in order to stop the spread of the virus. Officials from Poland, Romania and Hungary say they are doing regular testing of birds.

Austria, Greece, the Urkaine and Turkey have already found infected birds. So far, Turkey is the only European country to see the spread of the virus to humans. The virus has claimed four lives there.

The WHO said Monday that there have been 169 confirmed human cases in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam since 2003. The virus has claimed 91 lives.

The WHO maintains a pandemic alert rating system, which is currently set at Level 3 "Pandemic Alert" as of Tuesday. The Level 3 alert states the current pandemic threat as "No or very limited human-to-human transmission."

No cases have been detected in North America yet.

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