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H5N1 Bird Flu Spreads in Niger  

Recombinomics Commentary

March 4, 2006

In the commune of Gouré (1,050 km east of Niamey) about a hundred ducks were found dead, while about 100 dead turtledoves were reported in N`Guigmi (1,500 km east of Niamey) and nearby areas.

Samples of the latest cases have been sent to Niamey, the capital, for analysis, the sources said.

Three weeks ago, the discovery of a number of dead fowls in the commune of Dogo Dogo, near Maigatari in neighbouring Nigeria, where cases of bird flu have been confirmed, raised fears that the epizootic disease had hit Niger.

Laboratory analysis of samples taken in 15 localities of Magaria confirmed the presence of the avian flu virus of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, the government said in a statement after an extraordinary cabinet meeting.

The tests were carried out at the reference laboratory of the International Epizootics Office for avian flu and the Newcastle disease in Padoue, Italy, the government said.

The above comments indicate H5N1 bird flu is spreading in Niger.  The dead turtledoves suggest the H5N1 may be spreading in local bird populations.  Thus far only Nigeria, Niger, and Egypt have reported H5N1 in Africa.  The sequence from Nigeria indicated the H5N1 was the Qinghai strain and is likely to be linked to migratory birds.  These data suggest H5N1 has spread throughout Africa.

As H5N1spreads in recombines and evolves further, point out the essential nature of updated sequences. The head of the reference laboratory in Italy has urged researchers to make sequences publicly available.  Sequences are currently being hoarded at a private WHO repository.

Withholding these sequences by WHO is hazardous to the world's health.

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