Bird flu in Bafoussam : Cameroonian authorities have erected sanitary barriers around poultry farms in the western city of Bafoussam after an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. Authorities say a “huge” number of birds have died while farmers say they’ve been forced to cull thousands of chickens.

At the chicken market in Bafoussam, the Association of Chicken Sellers says at least 1,300 birds were sent to cities across the country Tuesday, despite a bird flu outbreak.

Dieudonne Kepseu is a spokesman for the association. He says they fear their chickens may be culled after livestock officials told them of the bird flu outbreak this week in Kongso, a nearby village.

Kepseu says livestock officials have visited the Bafoussam chicken market several times this week to ask sellers to report whenever their birds stop eating or have labored breathing. He says the sellers are vigilant because some poultry farm owners bring sick birds to sell at cheaper prices.

A statement by Cameroon’s West region governor on Monday said the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu caused a “significant” number of bird deaths at a poultry farm.

It gave no further details.

Jonas Temwa is the most senior government livestock official in the region.

Temwa says tests conducted by Cameroon’s National Veterinary laboratory confirmed the outbreak of the pathogenic H5N1 bird flu in Kongso village. He says the government immediately erected sanitary barriers and deployed several police officers to stop the buying and selling of birds on farms. Temwa says access to the farms is limited to livestock workers who are authorized to cull the birds.

Temwa says the killing of sick birds began on Monday as ordered by the national government.

He would not give the number of birds culled but described it as “huge.”

Three poultry farmers in Bafoussam told VOA they each lost at least one thousand birds due to the virus or through culling due to exposure to the infection.

Cameroonian authorities say the outbreak has so far been contained to Bafoussam and surrounding villages.

Cameroon’s livestock minister says only birds with sanitary certificates that show they are not contaminated are authorized to be sold.

Cameroon’s Interprofessional Association of Poultry Farmers says the H5N1 virus may have been imported through chicken feed, which authorities are investigating.

Francois Djonou is president of the association.

Djonou says all poultry farmers in Cameroon should be patient and disciplined. He also says he is certain that if all poultry farmers respect measures taken by the government, the outbreak will be quickly controlled.

Cameroon’s last outbreak of bird flu in 2016 forced the culling of 45,000 birds while hundreds of producers lost their jobs.

Cameroon has been recovering from a scarcity of chickens that came with supply disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Poultry sellers say trade restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 created a shortage and drove up chicken prices.Cameroon has been importing chicks and hatching eggs from Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of poultry, to meet demand.