WALVIS BAY - The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says samples collected from hundreds of dead penguins tested by the Central Veterinary Laboratory tested positive for Avian Influenza H5N8, a type of bird flu.
This follows after about 250 dead penguins were discovered late December on Halifax Island situated about 10 kilometres from Luderitz.
According to a press statement issued by the public relations officer of the ministry, De Wet Siluka, this specific strain of bird flu normally occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other birds or animal species as well. However, it does not normally infect humans.
Siluka said the ministry of fisheries has already taken precautionary measures and will continue to contain the infection to prevent further spreading.
“Such measures include regular visits to collect dead carcasses, isolating the sick birds and disinfecting wet areas around the colonies, and chemicals as the virus cannot survive in salt water,” he assured members of the public.
The infected birds will not usually get sick but can spread the contagious virus that can even kill certain domestic bird species including chickens and turkeys.
“Infected birds shed the virus through their saliva, nasal secretion and faeces. Healthy birds can contract the virus by coming in contact with contaminated services. However the good thing is that the virus cannot survive in salt water,” he said.
Halifax is situated about 10 kilometres west of Luderitz and is located about 100 metres off the mainland. It is the third most important breeding site for African penguins and home to about 2 500 that contribute to the entire Namibian population of 26 000 penguins. Other seabirds such as the crowned cormorants, swift terns and Hartlaub’s gulls also breed on this island. Senior fisheries biologist, Desmond Tom, told New Era yesterday that humans are not at risk, however they can spread the virus to other animals if they get into contact with infected animals.
“The good thing however is that the island is currently non-accessible to people apart from fisheries officials,” he said.