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Bird flu: H5N1 hit Nigeria multiple times
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 Bird flu: H5N1 hit Nigeria multiple times (pp 37)
The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has entered Nigeria multiple times according to analyses of the virus, which show that the strains in different Nigerian poultry samples are not closely related. The discovery indicates that the virus has entered Nigeria - the first African country known to harbour the strain - in birds travelling from a range of independent sources.
H5N1 was first detected in poultry in northern Nigeria on 7 February 2006, leading to the establishment of internal barriers to poultry movement. These measures were criticized, however, when the virus subsequently appeared in the southwest of the country.
But Muller and colleagues now report that the virus probably entered the country multiple times, rather than breaching internal cordons. They analysed swabs from birds on two different farms in Lagos state in southwestern Nigeria and compared them with DNA from the northern Nigerian samples. As they report in a Brief Communication in this week's Nature, all three are genetically distinct from one another, suggesting that the virus was transferred to the country independently in birds migrating or traded from southern Russia and northern Europe (but not from southeast Asia). Because H5N1 has now been detected in 14 of Nigeria's 31 states, the authors add that it is difficult to see how the country's poultry industry can best be protected without severe measures.
Claude P Muller (National Public Health Laboratory, Institute of Immunology, Luxembourg)
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