The Food & Agriculture Organizationreported that a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) previously not recorded in sub-Saharan Africa has now been detected in Nigeria, which recently reported two new HPAI outbreaks. 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 is more similar to strains previously reported in Italy, Afghanistan and Iran in 2007.
"The detection of a new avian flu 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 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 has not really started yet."
Since the H5N1 HPAI epidemic started five years ago in Asia, the disease has affected more than 60 countries; the vast majority of which have succeeded in eliminating the virus from poultry.