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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Africa Reports First Cases of Bird Flu

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Health authorities imposed a quarantine on poultry farms across northern Nigeria on Thursday after three states in the vast region reported Africa's first documented cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, officials said.

The strain was confirmed Thursday at two farms in Kano state and one in adjoining Plateau state, said Tope Ajakaiye, a ministry spokesman. Africa's first documented case was reported Wednesday in Nigeria's Kaduna state, bringing the total to three states.

"The federal government is doing everything to contain the disease within the three centers that have been located," said Ajakaiye in a statement.

Bird farms across the entire north of Africa's most populous nation are now under quarantine and a special assessment team was traveling around the region Thursday, said Junaidu Maina, director of Nigeria's livestock department. He did not say how many of Nigeria's 36 states were under the quarantine order.

Nigerian Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello on Wednesday confirmed findings by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, known as the OIE, of an outbreak of the H5N1 virus on a poultry farm in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna. No human infections were reported, but 40,000 birds died of bird flu there, the OIE said.

International experts from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the OIE were to travel to Nigeria on Friday to help, said Alex Thiermann, an OIE expert.

The farm in Kaduna had a total of 46,000 chickens, geese and ostriches, and all those that escaped bird flu were destroyed, OIE said. Nigeria ordered the quarantine and culling of any fowl suspected of carrying bird flu in hopes of halting its spread in Nigeria, officials said.

"The significance is that it's a completely new continent that we need to be looking at," Thiermann said of H5N1's arrival in the world's poorest continent.

Experts are concerned that H5N1, which has caused human as well as bird deaths in Asia and spread to Europe and the Middle East, might mutate into a form spread easily among humans, triggering a human flu pandemic that could kill millions. So far, H5N1 has passed only from birds to humans, not from human to human.

Indonesia, meanwhile, reported Thursday that two women from the same town had contracted bird flu, senior Indonesian Health Ministry official Hariadai Wibisono said in Jakarta, citing local laboratory tests. China said Wednesday that a 26-year-old woman had bird flu -- the 11th-known case in that country.

Sub-Saharan Africa, with about 600 million of the world's poorest people, is particularly ill-equipped to deal with a major health crisis. Thiermann noted that some African countries have "very weak" veterinary systems.