Bird flu outbreaks confirmed in Afghanistan flocks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two outbreaks of bird flu in small flocks in Afghanistan have been identified as the dangerous H5N1 strain, world animal health officials said on Friday.

The World Animal Health Organisation or OIE said it had confirmed H5N1 in a flock of backyard poultry in Nangarhar province and in turkeys in Kunar province.

Just last Sunday, Afghanistan banned poultry imports to prevent the spread of the feared virus, which forced the destruction of a flock of turkeys in Britain and killed birds at a zoo in Pakistan.

The H5N1 strain was found in poultry in at least four Afghan provinces last year, leading to the killing of thousands of birds, but there were no human deaths.

Afghanistan imports a large amount of poultry, mostly from Pakistan. The ban imposed last week also applies to other countries hit by H5N1, including Britain, Turkey and Indonesia.

The country lies at the junction of Central and South Asia and is on the migration route for several species of wild birds.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that jumps easily between people and start a global flu pandemic. Although only 274 people are known to have been infected so far worldwide, 167 have died.


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