Transparency in reporting AI
On 22nd June, ProMed reported on a episode of
mortality in migratory birds in the southern part of Zambia. An
epidemiologist with the Government of Zambia, later stated that diagnostic
procedures had eliminated avian influenza but there was no definitive diagnosis
given. Since then there has been no further posting, which gives cause for
concern. By Simon Shane
On 22nd June, ProMed reported on a episode of mortality in migratory birds in
the Victoria Falls area of the southern part of Zambia adjacent to the border
with Zimbabwe. According to a release by the Chief Veterinary Officer of Zambia,
Dr. Jack Shoko, diagnostic procedures on the 40 birds (species not stated) was
Laurie Garrett, affiliated with the US Council on
Foreign Relations, in a June 23rd ProMed posting, noted that the migratory
flyway from Nigeria terminates in the Victoria Falls region. On 25th June, Dr.
Christina Chisemble, an epidemiologist with the Government of Zambia, stated
that diagnostic procedures had eliminated avian influenza but there was no
definitive diagnosis as to the cause of mortality. Since this date there has
been no further posting, which gives cause for concern.
statement at a June 28th poultry industry meeting by a Veterinarian affiliated
to the Republic of South Africa, National Department of Agriculture confirmed
that the specimens provided by the Government of Zambia were "negative for
This situation is eerily reminiscent of the lack of
transparency demonstrated by a number of nations following the emergence of H5N1
avian influenza. We have been subjected previously to the sequence of "no it
isn't, maybe it is and then yes it is".
concerning specific diagnostic procedures and their results and the status of
investigations should be conveyed to the OIE and neighboring countries. There
are numerous causes for acute mortality in migratory birds including infections
other than influenza, toxicities and exhaustion associated with migration.
The world community and in particular, veterinary authorities in
Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and adjoining countries, Madagascar
and Mauritius, deserve to know the disposition of this case, which represents a
presumptive presentation of HPAI. A positive diagnosis of avian influenza would
require intensification of preventive measures in Zambia and Zimbabwe and other
nations with significant poultry populations requiring heightened biosecurity or
even pre-emptive vaccination.
If the Zambian authorities have either
diagnosed influenza or received an indication of the presence of the infection
from a reference laboratory, appropriate action should be taken to prevent
extension of infection to subsistence and commercial poultry on both sides of
the border. Any mortality in migratory birds should be subjected to a structured
investigation with surveillance of poultry and free living species in the area
concerned. If the mortality in wild birds in this case was due to some other
cause, the actual or most probable diagnosis should be declared. Failure to
either diagnosis the condition or to communicate findings reflects negatively on
the preparedness of veterinary authorities in Zambia.
Deficiencies in response to
possible outbreaks of HPAI have profound implications for the entire
By: Simon Shane
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