Avian flu kills 200 birds 

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Avian flu kills 200 birds 

Eveline de Klerk

SWAKOPMUND – Investigations are underway to establish whether the suspected Avian Influenza strain that killed over 200 wild birds at the coast can infect humans. 

The outbreak of Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu at the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay among aquatic birds have been confirmed over the weekend by the ministry of agriculture.

The ministry also sent out a cautionary message to farmers around the country.  

Coastal residents are cautioned not to touch dead birds in any circumstances while health workers have been tasked to be on high alert not to miss people who might have caught the flu, amidst Covid-19, as symptoms may mimic each other.

 Agriculture spokesperson, Jona Musheko confirmed the outbreak of the virus to New Era, saying that the ministry has been doing testing and confirmation after several seabirds have been found dead along the coastline for the past weeks.

“It was confirmed that it is Avian Influenza type A virus, but we still need to confirm with a second laboratory which strain it is. Either way, we must still take the same precautions,” Musheko said.

Avian Influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with bird flu type A virus. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other birds and animal species. 

It does not normally infect humans, however, sporadic human infections with Avian flu have occurred in the past.

 Exposure to birds, bird faeces or areas that have been contaminated with bird saliva, mucous or droplets might cause infection. 

It is also possible to get it by breathing in dust that contains the virus.

The directorate of veterinary services (DVS) in the ministry in a statement released over the weekend, indicated that since 13 January, they received reports about dead wild birds specifically Cape cormorants and pelicans on Bird Island and in areas around Salt Company. “

“Live birds were also observed showing clinical signs such as tremors, shivering, staggering movements and swollen heads. Some sick birds showed signs of tameness and reluctance to flee from humans. The source of the infection is suspected to be due to the wild migratory birds,” chief veterinary officer, Albertina Shilongo said in the statement.

According to her, domesticated birds (chickens, turkeys, etc.) may become infected through direct contact with infected wild birds, other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the viruses.

“Humans may be infected by flu as some Avian Influenza strains may infect humans. This can occur through the eyes, nose and mouth when handling and coming into close contact with infected poultry/birds, and/or through the handling and consumption of infected products. Further investigations are underway to establish whether the suspected HPAI virus strain can infect humans,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the executive director from the health ministry, Ben Nangombe yesterday said there won’t be any immediate threat if the current Covid-19 measures are followed.

“I think we are fortunate that we are fighting the Covid-19 virus currently and since it’s a flu and spread by way of droplets and so forth, let us continue wearing our masks and follow all precautionary measures set out by the agriculture ministry and the health ministry,” he said.