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African nations take bird flu precautions

Senegal has taken a precautionary measure of halting poultry imports to prevent the spread of bird flu. It is the latest African country to take such a step.  Congo Republic, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Comoros have either banned some or all poultry imports or announced other preventive measures.
A Kenyan man prepares chickens for sale at market in capital Nairobi
A Kenyan man prepares chickens for sale at a market in Nairobi on Wednesday. Kenya is among a number of African nation that have  banned poultry imports from countries where avian flu has been reported.  Antony Njuguna / Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

Senegal has taken a precautionary measure of halting poultry imports to prevent the spread of bird flu to the West African country, Prime Minister Macky Sall said.

It is the latest African country to take such a step. Congo Republic, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Comoros have either banned some or all poultry imports or announced other preventive measures.

“We have banned all imports of poultry as a precautionary measure,” Sall said on state television late on Thursday.

Hoping to prevent spread to Africa
The deadly strain of avian flu has killed more than 60 people and caused the death and destruction of millions of birds in Asia. It has now arrived in Europe, and experts have warned Africa may also be at risk.

The arrival of bird flu in Turkey and Romania suggests it is being carried by migratory birds, some of which pass through east Africa, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says.

Kenya and Mauritius said on Friday they were on alert to detect any cases of bird flu. On Tuesday, Nairobi banned poultry imports from countries where avian flu had been reported.

“Although prevention is the most effective strategy, we have made arrangements with the World Health Organization to facilitate access to the antiviral drug Tamiflu, should there be a need for the drug,” said James Nyikal, Kenya’s director of medical services, without elaborating.

“We have similar arrangements to access avian flu vaccine should they become available,” he said

In Mauritius, chief veterinary officer Lewis Prayag said, “Despite Mauritius being isolated by the sea and having no borders with other countries, we are on high alert because of around 3,000 migratory birds which come to Mauritius every year which can transmit the disease.”

Migratory routes may pose danger
In west Africa, hundreds of different types of birds also stop over during the migration season.

Senegal imports between 11,000 and 15,000 tons of poultry from Europe and Brazil every year, while local production is estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 tons per year.

“Local poultry producers can fill the gap,” Bousso Gueye, an adviser to the minister of livestock, told Reuters after the government announced the import ban.

The Senegalese government has urged local scientists to start searching for a vaccine.