Kampala, Uganda — A 9-year-old Congolese girl who tested positive for Ebola in neighboring Uganda has died, officials said Friday, as the World Health Organization said that the outbreak has neared 3,000 cases.
The young girl’s body will be repatriated with her mother back to Congo for a funeral, according to Dr. Eddy Kasenda, Ebola representative in the Congolese border town of Kasindi.
“We are finalizing the administrative formalities so that the body is repatriated and buried here in Congo, her native country,” said Kasenda. “We are collaborating with the health services of neighboring Uganda and we will strengthen the sanitary measures here in Kasindi.”
A Ugandan official at the hospital where the girl had been in isolation confirmed her death overnight. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
The girl, who was traveling with her mother, was identified at a border screening Wednesday as a possible Ebola patient and isolated.
Although cases of cross-border contamination have been rare, this case highlights the risk of Ebola spreading across the border into neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. Borders in the region are often porous, and many people traveling at night use bush paths to cross over.
Because the 9-year-old Ebola victim passed through an official entry point, Ugandan health authorities believe she had no contact with any Ugandan.
Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo since August 2018. The disease is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
WHO said Friday that cases have reached 3,000 in Congo, with 1,893 confirmed deaths and some 900 survivors. An average of 80 people per week are sickened by the virus, which has infected most people in Congo’s North Kivu province.
ted from the epicenter of the outbreak, the fight against it has been hugely complicated by a raging conflict in the region between rebel groups and the government, and resistance from wary residents who don’t trust the vaccine or public health workers.
Some in these communities have even staged attacks against health workers.
In June, a family of Congolese with some sick family members crossed into Uganda via a bush path.
Two of them later died of Ebola, and the others were transferred back to Congo.
Uganda has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and hemorrhagic fevers since 2000.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will travel this weekend to Congo with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and senior officials, including Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
On Friday he called on partners to increase their presence in the field.
“Our commitment to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that we will work alongside them to stop the Ebola outbreak,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Our commitment also means strengthening the health systems to give them all the other things they need. Building strong systems is what will protect people, communities and the world.”
Medical experts have attributed the re-occurrence of Emerging Infectious diseases (EIDs) to the inability of the government to control the disruption of the eco system through human activities.
According to them, inadequate funding of health care research and environmental impact studies together with government’s inability to regulate the way people destroy the environment have led to the increasing cases of outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens.
The experts stated this during the 5th African Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity in Abuja organized by Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET).
The Principal Investigator, GET, Prof Akin Abayomi, noted that Nigeria and Africa in general have been destroying the ecosystem through the destruction of forests, causing animals to move out into human communities.
He said the interaction between animals and humans is increasing due to population expansion and destruction of the ecosystem, thereby forcing animals out of forests.
He said the consequence of this is the increasing frequency and range of EIDs: ebola, lassa, yellow fever, monkey pox, cholera, bird flu and meningitis, adding that shrinking natural resources is creating human competition for water leading to demographic conflict.
The don stressed the need for government to spend more on health care delivery research and the creation of awareness, lamenting that there is a lag between what the government should be spending and what is being spent.
The Chief Operating Officer, GET, Dr Dotun Babadoye, lamented that the impact of changing climate and increasing security challenges in Africa are impacting on the emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threat on the continent.
The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Professor Chile Ihekweazu, pointed out that with the nation’s exponential growth rate of 2.8 per cent, including the internal and external migration coupled with poverty and lack of education are all responsible for the spread of infectious diseases.
Finally, the World Health Organization has declared the world’s latest Ebola outbreak a global health emergency. But what, exactly, does that mean?
The decision this week by the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to designate the long-running Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern generated a flood of news coverage.
Some global health experts have been vociferously insisting for months now that a PHEIC (pronounced FAKE or PHEEK) needed to be declared. They say it could improve the outbreak response and speed an end to the crisis.
But how might it do that? Read on.
What is a PHEIC?
Sometimes it’s easiest to define something by talking about what it’s not. That’s definitely the case when trying to describe a PHEIC.
Despite the fact the name combines “emergency” and “international,” a PHEIC isn’t necessarily a true global emergency. It can be — say, if a new disease began to spread globally or another flu pandemic started.
But in the case of the latest Ebola outbreak, the reality is people in Indianapolis and Istanbul, Shanghai and Sydney are at no greater risk today than they were before the PHEIC was declared. The declaration is not the WHO’s way of sending up a flare to warn that Ebola will be spreading around the globe from northeastern DRC.
This event is a crisis in the affected region of DRC and a real risk to neighboring countries. Governments around the world need to be paying more attention to it, but the risk of global spread is low
So that’s what it isn’t. But what is it?
A PHEIC is defined as “an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to other countries through international spread and that potentially requires a coordinated international response.” In short, it’s a tool the WHO’s member states have given the global health agency to help it deal with difficult transmissible disease situations.
It was created when the International Health Regulations — a treaty designed to prevent and control the international spread of disease — were updated after the 2003 SARS outbreak.
(If you don’t remember SARS, it was a disease that spread rapidly from China to other parts of Southeast Asia and also to Canada, sickening more than 8,000 people and killing about 800. It was completely unknown and alarming. But scientists and public health authorities figured out quite quickly how to control SARS and, except for a few cases the following year, it hasn’t been seen since.)
The goal of the IHR is to keep the world safe from transmissible diseases like this by requiring countries to report dangerous outbreaks so their neighbors can be on the lookout for cases and prepare to respond if needed.
A PHEIC gives the WHO some temporary powers it can wield in a crisis. For instance, it can share information about what’s happening with other countries, even without the consent of the affected nation.
WHO’s director-general can also issue what are known as temporary recommendations; those typically take the form of instructions to other countries (and indirectly, companies) not to penalize the affected nation by closing borders, restricting airline flights, blocking importation of goods or suspending visas issued to people from the affected countries.
Wouldn’t you want to stop travel and commerce from a disease-affected country to prevent spread?
Here’s the thing: Countries that know they’re going to take a financial hit or be ostracized internationally are less likely to fess up when they’re dealing with a dangerous disease.
You don’t want to penalize a country that’s been forthcoming. But you also don’t want to make it harder to move people and goods into or out of the affected area. The WHO needs to send in teams of experts, of health workers who can assist in an outbreak response. Doctors Without Borders and the other NGOs working on a response need to be able to ship in equipment. If air travel is cut off or reduced during a health emergency, it impedes the world’s ability to control the disease.
Are there any downsides to declaring a PHEIC?
It was designed to help but experience has shown a PHEIC can be a double-edge sword. There have been real concerns that declaring a PHEIC in this case could hurt the economy of the region, which could further inflame the tensions between people in the affected region and the people trying to extinguish this outbreak.
What about those temporary recommendations? Don’t countries have to follow the instructions of the WHO director-general?
In a word: No. The WHO is not the world’s health police. The director-general can advise, urge, exhort, or even condemn countries. But at the end of the day, countries are sovereign and will do what they think is best for their citizens.
During the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016, many countries stopped issuing visas to citizens of the affected countries. The WHO publicly challenged a few to explain their actions. In at least one case, that led to an angry call to the director-general at the time, Margaret Chan. The country that made that angry call, Canada, did not change its visa policy.
And most airlines stopped flying to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the countries at the heart of that outbreak. To this day there’s a deep well of gratitude in the global health community for Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Maroc, which heroically maintained flights into the region.
How often have PHEICs been declared?
Far less often than you’d think. For instance, an emergency committee of experts set up to assess the threat posed by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome met 10 times and decided at each meeting that MERS did not warrant declaring a public health emergency of international concern.
Is the disease a threat to some people in a few Arabian Peninsula countries? Yes. More than that? Not so far. The committee held firm even when a South Korean businessman who got sick in the Middle East went home and ignited a major outbreak — nearly 200 cases — in Seoul.
Likewise a large and dangerous yellow fever outbreak in Angola that moved into DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, in 2016 — an outbreak that nearly tapped out the global supply of yellow fever vaccine — was not declared a PHEIC.
There had been four PHEICs declared prior to this week’s addition of the DRC Ebola outbreak. The first time the tool was used was during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the first flu pandemic in 41 years. The West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016 was a PHEIC, as was the 2017 Zika virus outbreak in Latin America.
The other PHEIC was different from all the rest. It wasn’t a response to the emergence of a new disease, or one like Ebola that breaks out of nature occasionally to infect people. In 2014 the polio eradication campaign was floundering, and a decision was made to declare wild polio transmission a public health emergency of international concern. (That PHEIC remains in place five years later.)
The idea was to raise awareness of the issue at higher levels within governments around the world; that is what PHEICs are intended to do.
That, it’s hoped, is what will result from declaring the North Kivu-Ituri Ebola outbreak a PHEIC — that governments around the world, with their purses and emergency response expertise, will start paying more attention to this long-running crisis.
Scientists have declared a subspecies of giraffe endangered.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the conservation status of wild animals and plants, announced Thursday that Masai giraffes, a subspecies spread throughout Kenya and Tanzania, are now endangered, primarily because of poaching and changes in land use.
There are an estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes remaining, but their population has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last three decades. Africa’s overall giraffe population has decreased by up to 40 percent in that same timeframe.
There are 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild today. Their population has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years.
Masai giraffes are iconic, says Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Given that they’re one of the largest subspecies of giraffes, they’re the “quintessential” animal you likely think of when you think giraffes. For this subspecies to be declared endangered is a wake-up call, Sanerib says.
“This was devastating news…It really sounds the alarm bell,” she says. “It really indicates that we need to be doing more for giraffes internationally and with whatever tools are available.”
This is the first time the Masai subspecies (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. tippelskirchi) was assessed on its own—previously, it was included as part of the IUCN Red List’s general giraffe listing (Giraffa camelopardalis), which considers giraffes “vulnerable,” a step further away from extinction than “endangered.” Of the nine subspecies of giraffes, Masai and reticulated giraffes are endangered, and Nubian and Kordofan giraffes are critically endangered.
Related Slideshow: Close to extinction – Critically endangered animals (Provided by Photo Services)
Couple Adopts Baby Girl, 20 Years Later They Give Her The Note They’ve Been Hiding
Hunting giraffes is illegal in both Kenya and Tanzania, but they are poached for their hide, meat, bones, and tails. An estimated 2 to 10 percent of the population is hunted illegally every year in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, according to the IUCN. Poaching has increased because of civil unrest and emerging markets for giraffe parts, including tail-hair jewelry and bone carvings. There’s even a belief among some that giraffe bone marrow and brains can cure HIV and AIDS, Tanzanian media have reported. (Learn more about how giraffes in central Africa are being poached for their tails.)
Giraffe deaths have also increased because human populations have grown and expanded into what used to be wildlands, leading to increased incidents of crop damage and vehicle strikes. Hunting for bushmeat is also a threat.
“The forgotten megafauna”
Giraffes historically have been understudied compared to other threatened species. While thousands of scientific papers have been written on white rhinos, only about 400 cover giraffes, according to giraffe researcher Axel Janke. There are fewer giraffes than elephants left in Africa.
“They’re the forgotten megafauna, so to speak,” says Julian Fennessy, co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Giraffe Conservation Foundation. “They’ve sort of slipped away, sadly, while more attention has been given to elephant, rhino, lion, and other species.” (See more photos of how scientists are working to save giraffes.)
We have so much to learn about giraffes, Sanerib says, it would be a shame to lose them. For example, they have complex circulatory systems that could have implications for understanding human’s high blood pressure. Researchers have also found that they hum at night, and they have no idea why.
“We have this species that’s going extinct, and we have these phenomenal, really fascinating things about them that we don’t know the answers to,” she says enthusiastically.
Although for years there’s been a consensus that there’s one species of giraffe with nine subspecies, evidence of genetic differences has emerged in recent years, suggesting that there are actually four species of giraffe and that the Masai is its own species. Though Masai giraffes aren’t widely recognized as a unique species, Fennessy says categorizing them as their own could reap more conservation benefits. For example, the United States’ Endangered Species Act grants protections to animals at the species level, which means giraffes are not considered endangered by U.S. standards, even though several subspecies clearly are.
But overall, Fennessy says this new assessment shines a light on the plight of these animals.
“By identifying that they are endangered, hopefully now collaboratively with governments and partners, we can turn the tide before it’s too late,” Fennessy says.
This week the Ebola virus crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda, but there are reasons to hope it can be contained on that side of the border, reports Olivia Acland.
On Monday morning, a family was heading from the Democratic Republic of Congo back home to Uganda, after a funeral. The grandfather had died from Ebola and his daughter had gone to the country a few weeks earlier, to try and nurse him back to health.
By the time the family got near the Ugandan border, most of them were suffering from high fever and diarrhoea. They stopped in a health clinic and were put in isolation, awaiting tests. But after dark, six members of the family, including a five-year-old boy, slipped out of the clinic and set off down a desolate and poorly policed road crossing into Uganda. A few days later both the boy and his grandmother had died.
Health officials have long feared that this outbreak of Ebola virus could pass over the porous border into Uganda. The border is over 500 miles long and many of the crossings are informal – sometimes just a couple of planks laid across a shallow river. An endless stream of traders, some balancing baskets of eggs on their heads or swinging chickens by their feet, moves back and forth across the border each day.
One of the main reasons it has been so difficult to contain the disease in DR Congo itself is because it is spreading in a conflict zone. Some 120 armed groups hide in the jungle-matted hills in the east of the country and regularly spring out of the bush to abduct or rape civilians. They make money smuggling minerals like gold and coltan, used in mobile phone batteries, or by plundering villages and stealing livestock.
Complicating things further, the local population has little trust in the authorities and their ability to respond. Health workers often move around with armed escorts, which arouses suspicion. And when impoverished villagers see fleets of four-by-fours tearing down their roads they talk about “Ebola business” and are jealous of the money being poured into the response.
From Our Own Correspondent has insight and analysis from BBC journalists, correspondents and writers from around the world
Last month, I visited Butembo in the north-east of DR Congo – the disease-ridden region has become known as the “Ebola zone”. People there told me they believe the disease was bought to the region on purpose so that foreigners could make money from them.
Since the start of the outbreak, there have been over 100 attacks on health workers and Ebola treatment centres. Some have been spontaneous, fuelled by distrust and jealousy. Others, like the burning down of treatment centres, were premeditated and organised by rebel groups. Their aim and agenda is unknown.
While I was in Butembo, I visited an Ebola treatment centre and spoke to a patient from the other side of a plastic window. She told me that she was there, hooked up to a drip, when rebels attacked but was too weak to flee. She said that she’d heard them shouting “Get the matches!” and had then felt heat from the blaze. She lay there thinking she would die until a nurse, who had fled, came back to rescue her some 40 minutes later. Luckily the tents where patients stay were spared and most of the centre has since been salvaged.
At the moment one in four Ebola sufferers in DR Congo are not turning up at treatment centres. In part, this is down to distrust and in part, fear – both of the disease and rebel attacks.
DR Congo may be struggling to manage the spread of disease, but when the dreaded announcement came that the virus had spread across the border, Uganda was quick to act – 4,700 health workers in 165 hospitals have already been vaccinated. Marketplaces near the border have been closed down. Religious gatherings have been suspended. People are making an effort not to touch one another and handshakes have morphed into elbow nudges or waves.
In reality, it tends to take more than a sweaty handshake for the disease to spread. An Ebola patient can only pass on the virus if their fluids enter someone else’s body through broken skin, their mouth, nose, eyes or other orifices. As the disease causes diarrhoea as well as making you sweat, bleed and vomit, those most at risk – by far – are the ones caring for the sick.
In Uganda, the battle against Ebola will be determined by the government’s ability to win the confidence of the people. The country is not strife-torn like its volatile neighbour, and has a more robust health system. For the time being, at least, there is hope the disease will be contained in Uganda.
Olivia Acland is DR Congo correspondent for the Economist
The grandmother had lived in DR Congo, where her husband recently died of Ebola. Her daughter had travelled from Uganda, where she lives with her Ugandan husband, to the Congolese town of Beni with her children to help care for him.
After the grandfather died they all travelled on Sunday to Uganda’s Kasese district, where the five-year-old son and his grandmother then subsequently became sick and later died.
The three-year-old son is now confirmed to have Ebola. He, his parents and two of his siblings have been repatriated at their request to DR Congo, Uganda’s health ministry says.
Twenty-seven people are said to have been in contact with the three confirmed cases in Uganda. They have been restricted to their homes and will be vaccinated against Ebola.
The people who fled from a hospital isolation unit had been found to have high temperatures when they crossed the border from DR Congo to the Ugandan district of Kanungu, which is about 150km (93 miles) south of Kasese. Medical workers did not get a chance to take samples of their blood to send for testing before their escape.
How prepared is Uganda?
Analysis by Patricia Oyella, BBC Africa, Kampala
This isn’t the first time the virus has struck the country. Outbreaks in 2012, 2007 and 2000 have prompted the health ministry to build capacity, says Director of Clinical Services Dr Charles Olaro.
Public health information campaigns broadcast to at-risk areas have been key in preventing the spread since the first case of Ebola was reported over the border in DR Congo last August. Mass gatherings, including market days and prayers, have been cancelled. Market days in the town of Kasese attract an estimated 20,000 people at the border area.
Uganda’s health ministry and the WHO said a rapid response team had been dispatched to identify others at risk. The country has already vaccinated about 4,700 health workers against the disease, according to a joint statement by WHO and Ugandan health officials. Ebola screening centres are in operation along the border with DR Congo as well as other major entry and exit points.
Authorities have identified 22 high-risk districts – places that are close to the border and have high levels of movement – and deployed medical monitors to spot and manage any cases they find.
A database of experts is on hand to deal with different scenarios, the health ministry says, and Uganda also benefits from the expertise of health workers it deployed to contain previous outbreaks in West Africa.
What’s the situation in DR Congo?
Nearly 1,400 people have died over the last 10 months – around 70% of all those infected.
The outbreak is the second-largest in the history of the disease, with a significant spike in new cases in recent weeks.
Some have predicted it could take up to two more years to bring to an end. The WHO has twice ruled that this Ebola outbreak is not a yet global emergency. I
Efforts to contain the spread have been hindered by militia group violence and by suspicion towards foreign medical assistance.
Nearly 200 health facilities have been attacked in DR Congo this year, forcing health workers to suspend or delay vaccinations and treatments. In February, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) put its activities on hold in Butembo and Katwa – two eastern cities in the outbreak’s epicentre.
As demand for poultry meat increases in Botswana there are a number of broiler units in the country scaling up to ensure there is enough supply to keep supermarkets and butchers shelves well stocked. Poultry World reports.
One of the larger poultry producers in Botswana is Bobbsie’s Chickens based in the east at Tshesebe close to Francistown and has been in operation since 1999. This particular farm, owned by Gerald Sanders, runs a full scale production system right through from taking in day old chicks to fattening them and then slaughtering them in the on-site abattoir. From there the meat is butchered into the various cuts, or left whole, then packaged and delivered to local stores, supermarkets and butchers every single day of the week.
General manager of Bobbsie’s Chickens, Gerhard van der Merwe. Photo: Chris McCullough
The farm has four different housing sites, each with 12 houses and a capacity of 11,200 birds, and produces around 40,000 birds ready for market each week. The general manager of the poultry farm, Gerhard van der Merwe, is responsible for the day to day running of the entire unit and explained how the production system works. “It’s a fairly straight forward system we operate here at Bobbsie’s Chickens and a very effective one,” he said. “We mainly use the Ross and Cobb breeds here and are killing chickens when they are around 33 days old or sometimes a bit older at 36 to 37 days old.
“The houses themselves are all using open ventilation with curtains on the sides allowing us to control the temperature inside the houses. Chicks are placed into the houses which are freshly bedded with shavings and have a fresh supply of water and feed waiting on them.” Temperatures in this area of Botswana can reach 40°C in the summer time so the staff at Bobbsie’s must monitor the heat inside the houses at all times. Mr van der Merwe added: “We maintain a temperature of 32°C in the houses for the new chicks and then start to decrease that as the birds get older. Our staff also turn the shavings at least once per day to keep it dry and free from ammonia.
Farm worker Beke Mabayane with 21 day old chickens. The birds are caught for slaughter around 33 days old or sometimes a bit older at 36 to 37 days old. Photo: Chris McCullough
“Here in the east of Botswana the temperatures stretch from a low of 10°C in the winter time to around 40°C in the summer time so we have to monitor the birds for heat stress continuously. “Our birds are white in colour which also acts as a natural cooling tool against the excessive outside temperatures here. “There is normally a cooling breeze coming in from the south so we build the houses in this direction to make the most of this natural tool,” he said.
When the temperatures dip in the winter time the staff light coal fire burners placed in the centre of each house to ensure a comfortable environment for the birds. Mr van der Merwe added: “In the winter time we use coal burners placed in each house to increase the temperature within each house. These are simply metal burners filled with coal that act as a good central heating system for all the houses.
“The birds are kept away from the fires by ring fencing around them to prevent them getting too close,” he said.
Coal burners are used to increase the house temperatures in the winter time. Photo: Chris McCullough
The farm also runs a strict biosecurity system using closed fences, vehicle sprays, foot dips and by allocating the same workers to each house.
While bird flu has never been identified in Botswana, both poultry farmers and the agricultural authorities are keeping a close look out for symptoms. The Botswana government has in the past banned imports of poultry meat from neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe in a bid to keep the disease out.
“We try to keep all our houses bird proof to prevent any contact with wild birds and thus reducing the threat of bird flu,” said Mr van der Merwe. “There are no trees near the chicken houses where wild birds could rest and the staff are always on the lookout for water leaks. “Our farm is disease free and we vaccinate against Newcastle Disease. The nearest neighbouring poultry unit is around 40 kilometres away so we are well isolated here.
“Botswana is bird flu free but there are many cases in neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa so we have to be on our guard at all times,” he added.
Feed is shipped in from South Africa 500 kilometers away as Botswana cannot grow grain itself. Photo: Picasa
The company also runs a sister operation of a similar size in Gaborone called Goodwill Chickens, which supplies poultry meat to the south while Bobbsie’s Chickens supply the north east region including Palapye and as far as Mahalapye. According to Mr van der Merwe the biggest challenge to the business is rising input costs mostly referring to feed costs as this has to be imported from South Africa. “We employ 250 staff at each of our two premises,” he said. “This is a significant cost but as we cannot really grow any grain around here we have to ship all the feedstuffs in a distance of 500 kilometres from South Africa.” With regular price drops in beef due to disease issues, the demand for chicken can increase quite abruptly and often there is not much difference in the price of the two meats. Poultry meat retails in the stores around 26.50 Botswana Pulas (£1.89, € 2.20) per kilogram.
When the chickens are ready the staff catch them manually for slaughter and each house then goes through a resting period to give them time to recover before the next crop. “The houses have eight weeks downtime between the cycles after being thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected,” said Mr van der Merwe “This gives us optimum conditions in which to rear the next batch of chicks and so the entire process starts again.
“We are also embarking on a programme to renew the chicken houses as they become old. The older ones will be replaced at some point with more modern buildings but will still adhere to the same system as we use now as it works well,” he said.
Seabee Ndjengua on 17th January gathering carcasses on Halifax Island.
By Nuusita Ashipala
Lüderitz — Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources scientists found 27 penguins dead and three sick birds showing symptoms of Bird flu, even with the efforts from the ministry to control the spread of the virus.
The scientists continue to take necessary measures to contain the infection as well as prevent further spreading by collecting and burning dead carcasses, isolating sick birds showing symptoms as well as disinfecting wet areas around the colonies where most dead birds have been found. The wet areas were disinfected by spreading salts on the mud pools at the colonies and covering it up with beach sand. The fisheries biologist under the Seabirds and Offshore Islands Section, Desmond Tom, indicated that a virologist from University of Namibia is willing to do DNA sequencing for viral genomics, discovery and evolution with the assistance of veterinarians from SANCCOB, Cape Town, South Africa. He said they are continuing to put salt and isolation of sick ones from healthy penguins to control the spread of the virus, as the virus needs to run its course, as there is no vaccine for it. The ministry of fisheries’ officers started visiting the Island weekly after the swab samples collected on penguins last year at Halifax Island in Lüderitz and tested by the Central Veterinary Laboratory, tested positive of Avian Influenza H5N8. Avian influenza refers to infection of birds with Avian Influenza Type A virus. It occurs naturally among wild birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird species.
The H5N8 virus Type A cannot survive brine (salty) conditions. The officials pay regular visits if possible (once per week) to the island and repeat these procedures to avoid further spreading of the virus. They also carry biosecurity measures on the island, on board the research vessel (RV Anichab) and at the Seabird Rehabilitation Facility to avoid further spreading of the highly pathogenic virus.
The report indicated the death of penguins on Halifax Island was discovered mid December 2018 to date. More than 500 penguins, mostly adults have been reported dead even though chicks and juveniles are also affected.
Halifax Island is situated about 10 kilometres west of Lüderitz near Diaz Point, about 100 metres off the mainland. It is the second most important breeding site for African penguins and is home to about 7 000 penguins that contribute to the entire population of about 26 000 penguins in Namibia. The African penguins are endangered seabirds in Namibia and they are endemic to Namibia and South Africa.
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.