THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned African countries of a highly pathogenic avian influenza following a spike in reports of detections of the bird flu in wild birds across Europe.

The multi-lateral agricultural organisation said the disease has spread in Western Europe in countries such as The Netherlands, Germany, and The United Kingdom leading to over 70 notified cases, especially in wild bird populations but also affecting commercial poultry including some broiler breeder farms.

“FAO recommends countries in Africa to be on alert for incursion of H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), following increasing reports from European countries of detections in wild birds over the past week.

“Countries and farms should have in place enhanced measures for prevention, early detection and diagnosis, and for outbreak response,” it said in a statement.

Moreover, it is likely that the virus has already arrived in parts of West and North Africa but remained undetected so far,” it said.

Given the extent of infection in wild birds in Europe, the Middle East, the Russian Federation, and Kazakhstan, FAO said the risk of disease spread into other countries along wild bird migratory paths was high.

Among other measures, FAO has advised countries at risk to increase surveillance efforts in areas identified to be at higher risk of introduction through wild birds by immediately testing sick or dead domestic poultry as well as dead or hunted wild birds for the presence of the HPAI virus.

The agriculture organisation advised countries to limit direct and indirect contact between domestic poultry including ducks, and wild birds by paying particular attention to sources of poultry drinking water to ensure it cannot be contaminated or it is treated appropriately before use.

Raising awareness among poultry farmers as well as marketers, hunters, and any other relevant stakeholder about HPAI, is also critical.

Following the outbreak of avian influenza in 2017, the livelihoods and food security status of millions of families was threatened.

Zimbabwe culled around 215 000 birds as a result and this affected the availability of table eggs and poultry products in the region. The specter of bird flu outbreaks had been looming across the region since the beginning of 2017 when Uganda reported an outbreak in January the same year prompting Sadc member states to develop the capacity for surveillance, detection, prevention, and a rapid response to HPAI. — @okazunga