KABUL, 13 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - The H5 strain of bird flu has been found at two sites in Afghanistan and there's fear that tests could prove it to be the deadly H5N1 virus, a UN agency warned on Monday.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said five swab samples from backyard poultry farms in the capital Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad tested positive on Monday for H5, and that tests were under way to discern the virus subtype.
"There's a high risk that the virus detected is H5N1, but other possibilities remain at this time. The poultry method at the farms where the virus has been detected was backyard poultry," an FAO statement issued in Kabul said.
The H5N1 strain of the deadly bird flu virus has spread into Europe, Africa and resurfaced in Asia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that 176 people have been infected with bird flu around the world since 2003, and 98 have died. Azerbaijan said on Monday that three people have died there of bird flu. So far, the virus remains in birds, but experts fear it could change into a form easily transmitted from person to person.
Following information that a number of wild and domestic birds were found dead in different parts of Afghanistan on 22 February, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry & Food (MAAHF), in collaboration with the FAO, started taking samples from wild and domestic birds from Kabul, Jalalabad, Balkh, Zabul, Logar, Kandahar, Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces. The swabs were tested for avian influenza at the veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Kabul, according to the FAO.
Tracheal swab samples from birds, one from Qasabah, two from Dashtebarchee, both located in Kabul, and two from eastern Nangrahar province were received at the Central Veterinary Laboratory last week and tested positive on 12 March.
Afghanistan lies at a crossroads for migratory birds and its neighbours, including Iran and India, have already detected outbreaks. The FAO has long warned of the risk of the virus surfacing in the country.
The public veterinary system in Afghanistan remains weak and there's still no quarantine system to check imported poultry at borders.
... Payvand News - 3/16/06 ... --