AFGHANISTAN: Bird flu cases surge in new areas
KABUL, 28 March 2007 (IRIN) - New cases of a deadly
strain of bird flu have been confirmed in
Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and in the southern
province of Kandahar over the past week, according to
the Afghan health ministry.
A dead bird found in the garden of the Turkish
embassy in Kabul on 20 March was infected with the
H5N1 deadly strain of the avian influenza virus,
health officials confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday. A
quarantine that had been imposed on the embassy
compound was lifted after a team of medical workers
from the health ministry completed a bird-culling
"The blood test of an embassy driver who was
injured by a bird has shown no sign of avian
influenza," the ministry report said.
On 23 March, two more cases of bird flu were
confirmed in Kabul, a city with an estimated
population of more than 3.5 million people.
Over the past week, bird flu was also detected in
the Damaan and Shah Wali Kot districts of Kandahar
province in the south of the country.
Officials in Kabul say that insecurity is impeding
their efforts to curb the spread of the virus in Shah
Wali Kot, where insurgents have repeatedly attacked
In an effort to mitigate the outbreak of avian
influenza in Afghanistan, the World Health
Organisation (WHO) on 25 March called on Afghans to
stop buying and selling live birds.
"To prevent transmission of avian influenza to
humans, WHO is recommending that persons residing in
Kabul, Nangarhar and Kunar provinces avoid the live
bird markets until no disease has been reported for
several months, because avian influenza can spread to
humans from contaminated dust and feathers of infected
birds," WHO said in a statement.
In addition, WHO has requested Afghan bird-lovers
to refrain from petting and touching their birds.
But given the important socio-economic role of
birds in the life of many ordinary Afghans, both
recommendations are difficult, if not unrealistic, for
"I have been doing this business [selling live
birds] for over four years. I have no other means to
feed my extended family," said one bird-seller in
Officials in Afghanistan's committee against avian
influenza said it would be difficult to close live
bird markets in the country.
"I think both economically and socially it is
impossible to close all bird markets," Abdullah Fahim,
a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Health, told IRIN on Wednesday.
Afghanistan's first bird flu case was reported in
More than 20 cases of bird flu have been confirmed
in the country since February, many in the eastern
provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar.
The Afghan government has prohibited the
importation of live birds and poultry products from
neighbouring Pakistan where several cases of avian
influenza have also been confirmed.
To date, no human case of bird flu has been
confirmed among the estimated 25 million inhabitants
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