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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 15:32 GMT
Nigeria begins bird flu payments
Woman buying guinea fowl in Lagos
People can catch bird flu by handling infected poultry
Nigeria's government has started to pay compensation to farmers whose poultry have been killed because of bird flu.

Some 23m naira ($180,000) was paid to 47 farmers in the northern state of Kano, home to half of Nigeria's 450,000 birds to have died or been culled.

The farmers had demanded more than the 250 naira ($2) for each chicken, saying this was just half the market price.

But the BBC's Ado Saleh in Kano says that none of the farmers have refused to take up the government's offer.

Some, however, are unhappy that the payments only cover those birds which were killed by the authorities, not those who died from disease, reports the AFP news agency.

"The compensation is a joke," said Abbas Karofi.

He said he had lost more than 2,000 birds to bird flu, but that he had only been paid 60,000 naira ($450) in compensation for the 240 chicken that were culled.

Nevertheless, the authorities hope the payments will encourage other farmers to alert the authorities if their poultry starts dying, instead of trying to hide it.

No human cases of the H5N1 strain have yet been found in Africa but the United Nations has warned of a possible regional disaster if the disease continues to spread.

The deadly strain of bird flu has also been found in Niger, near the border with Nigeria.

Economic fears

Some public health officials have urged Nigerians to carry on eating chickens and eggs, as long as they are well-cooked.

They fear that a consumer boycott of poultry products could worsen the economic impacts of the bird flu.

More than 90 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts say that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

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