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Bird flu: Countrywide surveillance of wild birds

By Gerald Tenywa

Added 27th January 2017 10:33 AM

A team has been dispatched to conduct an annual count of water birds in different parts of the country.

Bird flu: Countrywide surveillance of wild birds

A team has been dispatched to conduct an annual count of water birds in different parts of the country.

PIC: A team from Nature Uganda, a partner of BirdLife International, undertaking surveillance at Lutembe Bay along the shores of Lake Victoria in Wakiso district. (Credit: Gerald Tenywa)

As a way of dealing a big blow to Avian Influenza also known as bird flu, a countrywide surveillance of the wild population of birds is being conducted to establish how wide the disease has spread.

This is what a team of experts from Nature Uganda, a partner of BirdLife International will be seeking to achieve in the coming six weeks, according to Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda.

He said the team has been dispatched to conduct an annual count of water birds in different parts of the country with a view of observing whether wild birds are dying or not.

He said the expedition that will cover mainly water birds on lakes Victoria, Mburo, Edward and Opeta, plus the expansive marshlands is being conducted with a lot of concern about the birds that tend to stay in large flocks.

"We have many birds that migrate as huge flocks but also many others that are not water birds," said Byaruhanga, adding that it is easy to pass on the disease when birds stay in congregations.

Along the shores of Lake Victoria, the team is expected at Lutembe, Mabamba and Makanaga. They are also expected to cover parts of western Uganda including Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, then eastern and northern Uganda.

Byaruhanga said the operation expected to end at the end of February will help to identify if there are death of birds among the wild population of birds.

He said the outbreak of bird flu among the white winged black terns was also a threat to birds that congregate in areas such as Mabamba, Sango Bay, Makanaga and Musambwa Island in Lake Victoria.


Christopher Kibazanga, the State Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), last week confirmed the outbreak of bird flu along parts of the shores of Lake Victoria.

He said samples of dead wild birds (white-winged black terns) at Lutembe in Wakiso as well as dead ducks and chicken at Bukakata in Masaka had tested positive.

 "The infected birds can be a source of infection to our poultry species (chicken, ducks and geese). The infected poultry or wild birds can also be a source of infection to human beings," said Kibazanga. "We advise that you avoid touching any live or dead wild birds."

He added: "Although the threat to human health is currently very low, we do not want to take any risks as the virus has been found to cause deaths in humans elsewhere."

What is bird flu?

Bird flu is a contagious disease caused by a virus related to human influenza. Some strains of the disease have been passed to humans but this is very rare, and usually only occurs after very close contact with infected birds.

While all bird species are susceptible, domestic poultry are vulnerable to infection. Outbreaks can turn into epidemics among bird populations in a short time.


According to Dr.  Anthony Mbonye, the Director Health Services, the disease has similar symptoms with the common flu and has an incubation period of three to four days and is accompanied by sneezing as well as coughing, high temperature, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, muscle aches but it does not spread through air.

Keepers of birds should watch out for symptoms such as swollen head, discoloration of the neck, throat and loss of appetite. Respiratory distress, diarrhea and when birds lay fewer eggs, according a statement from the Ministry of Health.


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