Laboratory tests confirm bird flu in Gambia

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By Tabora Bojang

The authorities have confirmed the presence in the country of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu, weeks after it was discovered in Senegal where it killed more than 1000 birds.

In the wake of the outbreak in Senegal and following reports of deaths among wild birds in the Tanji Bird Reserve, Gambian authorities conducted investigations and laboratory tests were carried out by the department of parks and wildlife, ministry of environment and the department of livestock services.

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“The samples which were collected during the investigation were sent to the national laboratory for veterinary and livestock research (LNERV) in Dakar, Senegal on 1st April and are found to be positive of HPAI of the type H5N,” a statement from ministries of environment, agriculture, health and the national disaster management agency said. 

According to the authorities, bird flu is a serious disease of both domestic birds (poultry) and wild birds (non-poultry) and can also cause disease in humans, making it a major concern for public health.

However, the statement added, so far, it has only been confirmed in wild birds in The Gambia but further investigations are on-going.

“With the current situation, the authorities from all these three institutions are closely working together to help reduce the infection pressure at the wild bird level and also working with other key stakeholders in the strive to prevent the spill over to poultry which will pose a more serious threat to public health,” the statement said.

The health and environmental authorities also advised the public against touching any apparently sick and dead wild birds and notify the department of parks and wildlife and department of livestock services of any cases.

“All poultry farmers are advised to heighten their biosecurity measures at their farms to minimise the risk of spreading the disease to our poultry. The government through its relevant ministries (agriculture, environment and health) and partners are very much concerned about this latest development and will do everything possible to control the outbreak at the wild bird level as well as prevent the spread to spill over to poultry,” the statement warned.

Bird flu has been spreading around the world in the past year, killing over 200 million birds, hiking global egg prices and raising concerns about its transmission to humans.

Reuters reported that since the outbreak in Senegal, 1, 229 bird deaths were recorded at the Langue de Barbarie Park, 500 deaths in Potou, 325 and 213 deaths in Yoff Island and Pink Lake respectively