Iraq puts chicken under lockdown after bird flu case is detected

Authorities also seal off neighbourhoods in Baghdad to try to contain the Covid-19 contagion

An Iraqi vendor sets loose his chickens and roosters at al-Ghazel market in Baghdad on March 20, 2009. The market, which is specialised in selling all kinds of domestic and wild animals, opens only on Fridays. Since the US-led invasion of Iraq, it has been targeted in several attacks, leading to the death of hundreds of Iraqis. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo by Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
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The Iraqi government have imposed a curfew on the country’s chickens, the authorities said on Monday, after discovering one that was infected with bird flu, north of Baghdad.

The announcement came as the new government of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi declared that its priority is to combat the novel coronavirus, amid woeful conditions of the country’s infrastructure.

Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi told a news conference that “contagion enclaves” were discovered in Baghdad and that the authorities sealed off on Monday certain neighbourhoods, without specifying which ones.

The Agriculture Ministry said that it had decided to "impose a ban on the movement of poultry and their travel between provinces,” spokesman Hamid Al Nayef told the state news agency.

He said the decision was made after a chicken was diagnosed with the disease in “one of the farms in Nineveh province”.

“The situation is under control as 30,000 chickens were annihilated and another 30,000 executed,” Mr Al Nayef said, referring to the chickens that were living in the farm and without explaining the difference between the two procedures.

He signalled that the carcasses of all of the 60,000 chickens were burnt “to prevent the spread of the virus”, without ruling out that the chickens may have been torched while alive.

Mr Al Nayef said bird flu is a “contagions disease spread by migrating birds,” and that it "exists in 38 countries”.

Bird flu infects chickens and their human consumers. At least 1,233 cases of the disease were recorded worldwide among human beings in the last seven years, according to online-course site FutureLearn.

Fatalities range from 20 to 40 per cent, but FutureLearn said “the spread from person to person is limited which has, in turn, reduced the number of associated deaths”.