KIGALI, International poultry farming experts and scientists met in the Rwandan capital to discuss ways to prevent and mitigate poultry diseases in Africa.

Rwanda hosts a continental conference and exhibition dedicated to poultry under the theme "Poultry Africa Expo 2017" in Kigali.

At the two-day gathering, which runs through Thursday, experts, investors, large and smallholder farmers will share knowledge on poultry disease prevention mechanisms and latest technologies.

Edir Silva, former president of World Poultry Science Association (WPSA), said the outbreak of deadly poultry diseases like the recent highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has had devastating effects on poultry production in Africa.

"We need to come up with strong preventive measures to (contain) poultry diseases and to boost financial support for preparedness and response efforts in Africa and globally," he added.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, avian influenza virus outbreaks have been confirmed so far this year in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, spreads among birds. In rare cases, it can affect humans.

The Kigali meeting will focus on creating closer business links between sub-Saharan industry professionals and farmers and the international producers and suppliers of the poultry and egg industry.

"Poultry farming in Africa is one the biggest business opportunities for young people on the continent," Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, principal scientific officer, Livestock Division Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, said. "We need to adopt preventive measures to counter future threats to the sector."

The meeting has brought together nearly 1,500 delegates from Africa and beyond.

According to the World Health Organization, avian influenza virus first infected humans in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong, China. Since its re-emergence in 2003 and 2004, the virus has spread from Asia to Europe and then Africa, resulting in millions of poultry infections, several hundred human cases, and many human deaths.