Avian flu reaches East Africa

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At the start of 2017, hundreds of White-winged Black Terns were found dead on the shores of Lutembe Bay on Lake Victoria in Uganda. These birds nest in central Asia and southeastern Europe, and migrate to Africa to escape the northern winter. Tests on some of the terns were positive for avian influenza, also called bird flu or avian flu.

Five domestic ducks and a hen in Masaka district, west of Kampala, were also infected, according to Uganda’s Agriculture ministry. This is the first report of avian flu in East Africa. In response, Kenya and Rwanda have banned importation of poultry and eggs from Uganda.

Worldwide, about 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and wild birds since November 2016, according to WHO (the World Health Organization). In Europe and Asia, thousands of infected poultry are being culled. In China, some human infections have been reported.

Nature Kenya, the Kenyan Partner of BirdLife International, has this advice for birding enthusiasts and the general public:

1.    If you are out birding and you come across dead birds: record the location, bird species and the total number of dead birds seen. Take a photo if possible.

2.     Share this information with Nature Kenya (office@naturekenya.org) or National Museums of Kenya Ornithology Section (Dr Peter Njoroge Head of Ornithology Section pnjoroge@museums.or.ke) or Kenya Wildlife Service (gakuya@kws.go.ke ) or any local veterinary office nearby.

3.    Do not touch dead birds! Avian Flu can infect people, although this is rare so far

4.     Viewing birds and eating cooked chicken and eggs is safe. There were no cases of bird flu in Kenya as at 27 January 2017.

5.    For more information see http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/species/avian_flu/index