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Since October 2021, an increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza cases have raised concerns about the potential for the virus to spread from domestic animals to humans.
On Wednesday, Namibia announced the suspension of 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 Latin American countries.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), the incubation period of the disease is 14 days. Therefore, the suspension of imports enters into force 14 days before the date on which a case of avian flu was confirmed.
This means that the suspension of imports enters into force two weeks before February 24 in the case of Argentine products and March 10 in the case of Chilean products, as explained by Albertina Shilongo, the chief veterinary officer at the Namibian Agriculture Ministry.
"Consignments containing poultry products packed in their final packaging on or after the date of start of suspension will be rejected and sent back to the country of origin or destroyed at the importer's cost," Shilongo stressed, adding that refrigerated trucking containers will be regarded as a consignment, and will be handled as an entity.
2 reasons for monitoring carefully Avian Influenza H5N1 virus from the public health perspective
"We will not allow cartons (e.g. in the case of chicken meat) to be sorted according to the date of production. All previously issued import and in-transit permits are hereby canceled 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.
"The current avian influenza situation has been raising concerns within the international community. Since October 2021, an unprecedented number of outbreaks has been reported in several regions of the world, reaching new geographical areas and causing devastating impacts on animal health and welfare," the WOAH said on Feb 13.
"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.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the possibility of facing an avian influenza pandemic after knowing of cases of transfer of the virus to mammals and even humans. pic.twitter.com/1HT9PPJDpg