By Tabora Bojang
A current outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu confirmed in The Gambia earlier this month, is causing significant losses to several species of birds in the country.
According to data released by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit, the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Livestock Services, the virus has already killed 6945 birds.
The institutions also said data has showed that 20 percent of the wild bird population in The Gambia are affected with the virus, with Kombo South district accounting for the highest percentage of infected birds, 68 percent.
The data also revealed that the species called Migratory birds, Royal tern and Caspian tern accounted for the highest proportion (59 percent and 18 percent respective) of infected and dead birds.
The authorities warned however that the list may not be exhaustive as some Important Bird Areas (IBAs) could not be reached due to lack of logistical support such as Personnel Protective Equipment PPEs, shortage of transport and difficulty in accessing certain areas.
The authorities lamented that they are confronted with a litany of challenges in their bid to contain the spread of the virus which can also cause disease in human beings.
The use of an ‘out dated tools to guide the response, low partner involvement to coordinate the response, inadequate PPE’s, sample collection and diagnostic tools for field personnel and inadequate logistical support for continuous monitoring and burial of sick and dead birds in all affected areas’ are some of the challenges highlighted in the situational report.
There are concerns in many quarters that unless a more robust response is carried out, the diseases can spread to poultry which is consumed by humans.