EU to help Nigeria fight bird flu

The European Union today said it was following closely the bird flu outbreak in northern Nigeria and was readying millions of euros of aid for Nigeria to help fight the spread of the disease.

The European Union today said it was following closely the bird flu outbreak in northern Nigeria and was readying millions of euros of aid for Nigeria to help fight the spread of the disease.

EU spokesman Philip Tod said EU experts “are remaining in close contact” with officials in Nigeria, and with UN agencies, like the Food and Agriculture Organization, which are helping fight the outbreak there.

“The (European) Commission is concerned about the outbreaks in northern Nigeria,” he said, adding the EU was in talks with the 76-nation African, Caribbean and Pacific group on an EU pledge of €30m it was giving to them to help prevent the spread of the disease.

“That aid is yet to be agreed by the ACP countries. We certainly expect Nigeria to benefit from part of these funds, to help them in their fight of this disease,” said Tod.

Nigerian poultry farmers today called for more compensation for those whose flocks have been hit by the bird flu, the first known outbreak in Africa.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed on Wednesday and yesterday in three of Nigeria’s 36 states, all in the north of Africa’s most populous nation.

The disease has killed some 100,000 Nigerian birds so far.

Tod also said the European Commission expected Greece to apply EU recommendations to ensure an outbreak of an H5 strain of the flu found in three wild swans does not spread.

Experts at the EU’s reference library in Weybridge were trying to determine whether the birds had the deadly H5N1 strain, as found in Turkey.

Greek authorities have already instructed poultry farmers to keep their birds indoors or in coops, and have banned the sale of live birds in street markets.

Tod said Greek authorities also had to adopt “safeguard measures,” including a ban of transport of farmed poultry in the zone where the three cases were found as well as increased surveillance of all birds near the affected area.

“Movements of poultry from the affected area to other holdings or for slaughter will be subjected to rigorous additional controls,” said a statement issued by the Commission.

“We have to work on the assumption that the avian influenza virus could be spread by wild birds, so we should not be unduly surprised or alarmed if such cases are found in the European Union,” EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said in a statement.

“What is important is that we have the framework in place to take the appropriate measures as soon as possible to contain it and prevent its spread to poultry, and that is what we are doing.”

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