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Following the meeting of an interministerial committee set up to look at bird flu preparedness, Senegal has stopped importing poultry meat and eggs, and has called for all poultry to be vaccinated.  

The government says all chickens and derived products must be certified for safety before they can be sold, and poultry found dead must be wrapped in plastic and taken to veterinary services for testing.

The government also called on Senegalese researchers to increase research efforts into understanding the virus better to help develop a vaccine against it. 

'Sentinel chicken coops' will be set up in bird reserves, where migratory birds are expected to land, to detect the arrival of bird flu as early as possible.

Poultry farmers will be compensated by the state for any flocks culled to stop the disease spreading. This, explains the government, is to encourage farmers to inform the authorities of the presence of the disease on their farms.

Malick Faye, director of pastoral farming, said that many birds migrate to Senegal. However, he said, "avian influenza is not an imminent threat for Senegal" because it is not expected to be a problem before the first half of 2006.

"Senegal is well equipped to detect the disease," said Faye. "Its laboratories have real expertise in this domain. We must simply reinforce the capacity of these facilities."

Faye said that Senegal was also thinking of creating a stockpile of the flu drug Tamiflu.

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