Togolese authorities said on Saturday they had slaughtered 11,500 chickens in response to an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu at two farms in the capital Lome and the town of Adetikope, about 25 km north of Lome.

"We are in the presence of the H5N1 virus," Agriculture Minister Ouro-Koura Agadazi said on public radio, after the strain was confirmed by laboratory tests in Italy.

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Highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu has spread across a number of West African countries in the past two years, hitting poultry farms in Niger and Cameroon.

The outbreaks across West Africa have raised fears of transmission to humans, given poor health infrastructure in the region and a number of human H5N1 deaths since the virus first infected humans in 1997 during a outbreak in poultry in Hong Kong.