Bird Flu: Namibia Shouldn’t Panic


By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK The Chief Veterinarian Officer at the Directorate of Veterinary Services Dr Otto Hubschle says it is too early for Namibia to panic following the discovery of the first case of the deadly bird flu in Africa in Nigeria. The first case of H5N1 bird flu, deadly to humans, was detected on a farm in Kaduna, northern Nigeria and according to media reports, the outbreak could have devastating consequences, as it is likely to be followed quickly by others. “Namibia is between 4 000 and 5 000 kilometres from Nigeria. Don’t get carried away with it, it’s too early,” said Hubschle. He was also quick to make an assurance that should it spread to Namibia, the country has worked out contingency plans. According to a BBC report, the virus could be quite widespread and that World Health Organisation (WHO) officials were investigating whether poultry in other states also died from the virus. The report quoted a top UN Official, David Nabarro of WHO, warning all African governments and ordinary people to take “very, very strong precautions” to protect themselves and stop the disease from spreading. “If it’s in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped.” “We’ve got to have all countries, particularly in West Africa, being very vigilant for bird die-offs, which are the indicator of bird flu being in the population,” he was reported as saying. Hubschle said the case was a worse-case scenario on the continent because Nigeria has a high population density and the possibility of it spreading to other parts of Western African was greater due to extensive traffic between these countries. He said the problem becomes even greater with the passive transportation of potentially infected material by humans. “There is a lot of human movement between these countries but from there to Namibia is very limited.” As for Namibia, the spread could be through migratory birds which could be detected through a high mortality of birds. However, he noted that this did not mean that whenever a bird was found lying dead somewhere, it had died from the disease. “Its just to early to panic,” he stressed.