The World Health Organisation says avian influenza has been spreading around the world since last year killing more 200m birds. / Photo: AFP

Senegal’s livestock ministry has reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu.

A poultry farm in the village of Potou near the northwestern town of Louga is the latest to be hit by the outbreak which 500 birds there, the ministry said on Friday.

The authorities said it has also killed at least 1,229 bird so far been at the Langue de Barbarie Park and surrounding areas.

The highly pathogenic Type A H5N1 bird flu “was first detected on March 8 from samples taken from migratory royal and sandwich tern birds around the Pink Lake, and Yoff Island near the capital Dakar,” it added.

At the Pink Lake, 323 bird deaths have been recorded, while at Yoff Island, 213 birds died.

Senegal’s livestock ministry said “it is highly likely that the virus was spread by migrating birds,” it added.

The risk to humans

Avian influenza or bird flu has been spreading around the world in the past year, killing more than 200 million birds, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

People can catch the virus through contact with infected birds but human to human transmission is unusual. Photo/Reuters

The WHO says H5N1 infection in humans can be severe and has a high mortality rate.

But it says the virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person ''appears to be unusual.''

It added that almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people ''have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.''

But there has been no evidence that people can be infected through ''properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food,'' the world health body said.

But it warned that if the H5N1 virus were to change its behaviour and become easily transmissible among people while retaining its capacity to cause severe illness, ''the consequences for public health could be very serious.''

TRT Afrika and agencies