Gov’t Confirms Avian Influenza Killed More Than 7000 Birds in Gambia

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A National Task Force led by our Dept. Parks & Wildlife Management and the Dept. of Livestock Services (DLS) conducting tests on birds following a suspected outbreak. Photo Credit: Ministry of Environment

Momodou Lamin Gassama, Director of the Parks and Wildlife (PWD), has confirmed to TAT that more than seven thousand wild water birds have died in various places since the outbreak of High Pathogenicity Avian influenza (HPAI) in the country.

The Parks and Wildlife Director also dismissed reports that the HPAI disease has spilled over to the local poultry farms within the country, stressing that there is no cause for alarm as the task force established to monitor the situation is working around the clock to survey any newly reported cases.

Last month, the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, Health and National Disaster Management Agency confirmed the outbreak of High Pathogenicity Avian influenza (HPAI) in the country after several birds were found dead in Kartong and other coastal areas.

Last month, the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, Health and National Disaster Management Agency confirmed the outbreak of High Pathogenicity Avian influenza (HPAI) in the country after several birds were found dead in Kartong and other coastal areas.

In a joint statement, the Government says samples collected from dead birds were sent to the National veterinary laboratory for Veterinary and livestock research (LNERV) in Dakar, Senegal, on 1st April 2023 and were found to be positive for HPAI of the type H5N1.

That development follows a public outcry among environmentalists raised the red flag on the zoonotic disease outbreak that has claimed the lives of more than one hundred (100) wild birds at Tanji Birds Reserves and Kartong Beach, among other places along the coastal strip.

In an exclusive interview with TAT on Wednesday, 26th April 2023, he said the ratio of birds affected and killed is declining as authorities, together with partners, are doing everything possible to contain the outbreak.

“So far since the beginning of the outbreak, the number of birds that died due to the High Pathogenicity Avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak is over seven thousand one hundred as per our data. We have buried all these birds to avoid direct contact with the people to contain the spread of the disease in the country,” Momodou Lamin Gassama, Director Parks and Wildlife Department revealed to TAT.

He added: “There is no cause for alarm regarding a spillover so far because we haven’t received any spillover report to the local poultry. So the poultry sector is very safe now. However, we are at the height of the outbreak where people can easily be alarmed with the birds dead due to Newcastle disease that has similar features of Avian Influenza.”

According to him, data collected by government agencies indicates that the disease is declining in the country, going by the number of dead birds found.
He stressed that the outbreak has only affected wild water birds and has not intruded on the local poultry farms, contrary to speculations making the rounds.

An Expert who spoke to TAT emphasized that Avian Influenza is a dangerous disease that the Gambia cannot afford to play around it, urging the responsible departments to embark on massive surveillance of all poultry farms across the country to ensure that there is no room left for the spillover of the outbreak to local poultry farms across the country.

“So far, I am unaware of any outbreaks of this disease in the poultry population. However, that also hinges on many factors, such as the coverage and capacity of the surveillance system for early detection,” the Expert observed.

He added: “There is evidence of torticollis (twisting of the neck); this is a sign manifesting both Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Avian Influenza. NCD is the most widespread disease in local chicken in the Gambia; the velogenic form of the disease is characterized by high morbidity and mortality similar to Sbian Influenza.”

He further explains the obvious difference between the two is inflammation of the shanks, wattle, and comb of the affected birds, which is present in Influenza but absent in Newcastle disease, adding that the most appropriate thing to do in the event of spillover is to cull (killing) all the affected birds found in that poultry to avoid its spread.

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