Officials in Benin have confirmed the presence of the H5N1 avian flu virus on two poultry farms.
Agriculture Minister Roger Dovonou says tests from a laboratory in Italy confirmed the virus has struck one farm in the city of Cotonou and another in the town of Adjarra, outside the capital Porto Novo.
Benin reported its first suspected cases of bird flu on December 7th. Workers slaughtered several hundred chickens at the two farms as a precautionary measure, and also disinfected the sites.
H5N1 mainly affects birds but is capable of infecting humans. The virus has killed more than 200 people around the world, mostly in Asia, since 2003.
The country has banned all poultry imports and limited poultry movement around the infected areas.
The voodoo problem
The lead in the Reuters story mentions that Benin is home of the “ritual voodoo sacrifice,” which seemed an odd announcement. But, there’s a reason for the notice. On to Reuters!
Health experts have said they fear Benin's Voodoo priests could be particularly at risk because of their practice of tearing out the throats of live chickens in ritual sacrifices.
Voodoo "convents" are found across Benin and the ancient religion was also carried to the Caribbean, especially Haiti, by slaves shipped to the Americas by European captains and traders.
According to one source, 60 percent of Benin's population practice a form of this indigenous religion, generally called Vodoun. (The CIA claims less than one in five people are adherents.) Regardless, the government officially recognizes its practice and the country celebrates Voodoo Day on January 10.
Here is a link to a story on last year's Voodoo festival.