Alan Hay, a director of the WHO
Influenza Centre said that African nations cannot afford to ignore the threat of the potentially fatal H5N1 bird flu,
and should be ready to detect and irradicate the virus in poultry and wild birds.
“The danger is that you might have something where it could be smouldering and then all of a sudden it shows up in the human population,” Hay said at the Roche Diagnostics Forum in Johannesburg.
The WHO has agreed to help establish regional centres focused on avian flu in five nations in sub-Saharan Africa – Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, Madagascar and Kenya – where “surveillance is less than adequate,” said Hays.
He said that local governments needed to gather enough resources to ensure the centres stay operational, because health facilities in the world’s poorest continent are often basic, and diseases can go undiagnosed.
Ivory Coast declared a new outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu last week, the first in the West African country since it was first detected there in April.
The local poultry industry fears that the outbreak could send demand for chicken plummeting – as it did in the country when the virus was detected there in April.