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Bird flu DNA analysis aids containment efforts, researcher says

Officials should conduct genetic tests on poultry carrying the H5N1 strain of bird flu to determine whether containment measures are working, a scientist said. “You might have bird flu on two neighboring farms, but that does not necessarily mean the virus spread from one to the other,” Claude Muller, a researcher at the National Public Health Laboratory in Luxembourg, said in an interview on 6 July. Muller and his team analyzed the DNA from 18 Nigerian poultry samples. The scientists found three distinct genetic strains of H5N1 virus that weren't closely related, they said in 5 July's edition of Nature. The research showed that bird flu entered Nigeria through fowl traveling by several different routes, showing the virus did not jump barriers designed to contain it. The scientists recommended culling and vaccinating birds and strengthening surveillance to prevent the spread of H5N1. Nigeria was the first African nation to report the presence of the H5N1 virus in February. Since then, the disease has spread to Niger, Egypt, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Djibouti. Disease trackers are concerned the virus, which mainly affects birds, may mutate to become more easily spread among people. At least 131 of the 229 people known to be infected with the bird flu since late 2003 have died, according to the World Health Organization in Geneva. (Bloomberg)