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Nigeria was the first African country to report highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus outbreaks in February 2006 and has since been the most severely hit country in sub-Saharan Africa. A retrospective survey carried out towards the end of 2007, coupled with follow-up spatial analysis, support the notion that the H5N1 virus may have spread from rural areas of northern Nigeria near wetlands frequented by palaearctic migratory birds. Possibly, this could have happened already during November to December 2005, one or two months prior to the first officially reported outbreak in a commercial poultry farm (Kaduna state). It is plausible that backyard poultry played a more important role in the H5N1 propagation than thought previously. Farming landscapes with significant numbers of domestic ducks may have helped to bridge the geographical and ecological gap between the waterfowl in the wetlands and the densely populated poultry rich states in north-central Nigeria, where the virus had more sizeable, visible impact.
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