We've more evidence of the spread of HPAI H5N8 in central and southern Africa today with an announcement from the OIE that a large poultry farm in Zimbabwe has tested positive for the virus.
This comes just 2 days after the OIE Confirmed HPAI H5 In The DRC, 1400 miles to the north of today's notification.Given the paucity of surveillance, testing, and reporting in this part of the world, the virus is probably already far more entrenched in migratory and wild birds than the few reports we get would suggest..
First some excerpts from the OIE report, then I'll return with a bit more.
Source of the outbreak(s) or origin of infection
Unknown or inconclusive
Epidemiological commentsThe affected farm has 8 separately managed sites which are at least 1km apart. One of the eight sites was affected, a parent breeding unit for broilers with 83,000 birds. A total of 3,045 birds died within a week at this site showing signs consistent with highly pathogenic avian influenza. The affected site is close to a small dam where there are a number of different migratory waterfowl, which are tentatively suspected to be source of infection.
In the summer of 2015, in FAO: Concerns Rising Over Spread Of Avian Flu In Africa and again in October of that year, in WHO Scales Up Influenza Surveillance In Africa, we looked at growing concerns over the recent spread of highly pathogenic avian flu into Africa and the very limited surveillance and reporting from the region.
Just last January, in The Challenge Of Avian Flu Surveillance In Sub-Saharan Africa, we looked at the difficulties in detecting, confirming, and tracking avian flu in central Africa.HPAI poses a very real threat to wildlife, poultry, and potentially to human health in Africa. Beyond that, as it encroaches into new territories, it may also find opportunities to reassort with other local avian viruses, such as we saw with HPAI H5N5 in Europe this past winter.
This is the deepest intrusion yet of HPAI H5N8 into the southern hemisphere - which is now entering their winter season - and means that poultry interests throughout southern Africa need to be increasing their biosecurity and surveillance.