Thursday, February 01, 2007

Africa's First Human Bird Flu Victim

Nigerian Woman Tests Positive For H5N1

There has been much debate over the past few years about where the predicted human bird flu pandemic will originate. China and Indonesia are usually cited by the media, but it seems that many virologists and bird flu experts fear that Africa will the birthplace of a pandemic that could claim the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

So far, sub-Saharan Africa has had relatively few outbreaks of avian influenza amongst wild birds and poultry, partly due to fast action by international agencies and co-operative governments, who clearly understand the threat that H5N1 poses.

But Nigeria has now announced its first official human bird flu victim - a woman from Lagos State. Results from three others who may have died of bird flu have been deemed, for now, "inconclusive".

From the Nigerian Tribune :

Mr. Abdulsalam Nasidi, a bird flu expert at the health ministry in Abuja, said the three inconclusive cases were the mother of the confirmed case in Lagos, a poultry worker in Taraba State and one person in Borno State.

The woman from Lagos State is the first confirmed human victim of bird flu in sub-Saharan Africa, after the deadly disease was first found in poultry in Nigeria a year ago.

“Last night, our team of 13 scientists were able to conclusively identify the case of avian influenza in a 22-year-old female who died in Lagos,” Frank Nweke, Information Minister, told a news conference in Abuja.

The woman was one of 14 people, three of whom died, from whom samples were taken for tests. Samples are now being sent to foreign laboratories for confirmation. Nigeria is one of three countries regarded by experts as the weakest areas in the global attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

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