Dear coastal residents and birders in Namibia. Following a major outbreak of avian influenza in the Cape a few months ago that has killed almost 25000 coastal seabirds so far (mostly Cape Cormorants), there is a distinct possibility that the disease is spreading to Namibia’s coastal birds too.
Over the last few weeks we have had several reports from the general Swakopmund / Walvis Bay area of sick, dying or dead seabirds, including cormorants and terns. Since yesterday there have been several disturbing reports of dead and dying Cape Cormorants and some individuals of a few other species between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
Typical symptoms of avian influenza in seabirds include tame or dazed behaviour, weakness, an inability to sit up or stand, twitching, seizures, and in some cases foam or mucus on the beak / around the eyes. Treating an infected bird is unfortunately futile and may contribute to the spread of the disease.
Although avian influenza poses a very low health risk to humans, people can carry the virus on their hands and clothes and could transmit this highly contagious disease to other birds. Birds should therefore not be handled by the public. If you have come into physical contact with a suspected case please disinfect yourself thoroughly. If handling is necessary for some reason, wear disposable gloves and a mask (and dispose of them safely afterwards).
At this time we do not know the cause of these recent mortalities. The first samples are currently being collected and analysed for avian flu. All fingers and toes crossed that it is NOT avian flu.
If you come across visibly sick, dying or freshly dead seabirds in the Walvis Bay/Swakopmund area, please immediately inform the Walvis Bay State Vet on 064 205313. If you find suspicious cases in the Lüderitz area please send us a private message on the Lüderitz Marine Research Facebook page.