A strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza previously not recorded in sub-Saharan Africa has been detected in Nigeria for the first time, the United Nation's Food and Ag Organization (FAO) reports. Nigeria has recently reported two new Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks in the states of Katsina and Kano.
Laboratory results from Nigeria and an FAO reference laboratory in Italy show that the newly discovered virus strain is genetically different from the strains that circulated in Nigeria during earlier outbreaks in 2006 and 2007. The new strain has never been reported before in Africa; it is more similar to strains previously identified in Europe (Italy), Asia (Afghanistan) and the Middle East (Iran) in 2007.
“The detection of a new avian influenza virus strain in Africa raises serious concerns as it remains unknown how this strain has been introduced to the continent,” warned Scott Newman, International Wildlife Coordinator of FAO’s Animal Health Service. “It seems to be unlikely that wild birds have carried the strain to Africa, since the last migration of wild birds from Europe and Central Asia to Africa occurred in September 2007 and this year’s southerly migration into Africa has not really started yet. “It could well be that there are other channels for virus introduction: international trade, for example, or illegal and unreported movement of poultry. This increases the risk of avian influenza spread to other countries in Western Africa.”