NAMIBIA- Namibia has suspended the import and in-transit movement of live/raw poultry, birds, and live/raw ostrich products from Argentina and Chile after outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the countries.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a highly contagious severe respiratory disease which primarily infects birds. It has a high mortality rate, especially in poultry.

As the incubation period of the disease, as set by the World Organization for Animal Health, is 14 days, the suspension will take effect 14 days before the date on which a case of avian flu was confirmed.

Albertina Shilongo, the chief veterinary officer at the Namibian Agriculture Ministry explained that the suspension of imports entered into force two weeks before February 24 in the case of Argentine products and March 10 in the case of Chilean products.

The Agriculture Ministry noted that consignments of poultry products packed in their final packaging on or after the suspension start date will be rejected and returned to the country of origin or destroyed at the importer’s expense.

“We will not allow cartons to be sorted according to the date of production. All previously issued import and in-transit permits are hereby cancelled and recalled with immediate effect,” she noted.

Shilongo, however, said that cooked poultry meat products for commercial purposes may still be imported into Namibia under the veterinary import permit.

Namibia has always been swift in banning imports from countries affected by the Avian influenza virus. On April 2022, a similar outbreak was reported in the USA leading to a similar ban.

The current avian influenza situation has been raising concerns within the international community as stated by the Agriculture Ministry.

“The disease puts at risk global food security and the livelihoods of those who depend on poultry farming. It has also led to an alarming rate of wild bird die-offs and has affected other wildlife including sea and land mammals,” it added.

Avian influenza outbreaks can have heavy consequences for the poultry industry as well as the farmer’s livelihoods affecting international trade.

Around the globe, record-breaking death tolls due to the virus are becoming the norm. In the US, more states than ever before have reported instances of bird flu with an all-time high of nearly 58 million poultry affected as of January 2023.

Meanwhile, Europe is in the midst of its worst-ever spate of bird flu infections with 2,500 outbreaks on farms stretching across 37 countries from October 2021-September 2022.

Some 50 million birds have been culled across the continent, although the vast majority of poultry infections occurred in France, according to a report by France 24.

The transmission of avian influenza from birds to humans is usually sporadic and could have dire consequences on the affected individual.

In march this year, a man in northern Chile tested positive for H5N1 bird flu and was reported to be in serious but stable condition, suffering from severe pneumonia.

Earlier in February, an 11-year-old girl in southern Cambodia died after being infected with avian influenza A (H5N1).

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