Iraq reports first bird flu outbreaks in 10 years

An inspection officer from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore swab samples which are taken from live and dead poultry at slaughterhouses to test for diseases such as bird flu.
An inspection officer from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore swab samples which are taken from live and dead poultry at slaughterhouses to test for diseases such as bird flu. ST FILE PHOTO

PARIS (Reuters) - Iraq this week reported six outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu that happened from mid-December to early February, its first occurrence of the disease in nearly 10 years, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday (April 26).

Nearly 720,000 birds died as a result of the outbreaks which were mostly on farms, the Paris-based OIE said, citing information from Iraq's agriculture ministry. Of these 77,101 birds died of the virus and the others were killed in protective culls.

Outbreaks were found in different parts of the country, from a town near the border with Turkey to one north of Baghdad and two farms further south in the province of Al Qadisiyah.

The ministry's report cited measures taken to avoid the spread of the disease, including quarantine, surveillance outside containment and protection zones, destruction of animal products and by-products and control of wildlife reservoirs.

The last occurrence of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bid flu, in Iraq dates from January 2006, the ministry said.

Iraq imposed a ban in December on all fresh and frozen poultry imports from France after reports of bird flu outbreaks. It extended the ban in January to cover two dozen countries, including China and South Africa.

Highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu first infected humans in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong. Since its re-emergence in 2003 and 2004, H5N1 has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa, causing millions of poultry infections, several hundred human cases and many human deaths.