The H5N1 virus – a.k.a. bird flu, which can also infect and kill humans – has been confirmed in certain bird populations in northern Nigeria. Last night, a few reports straggled in that the disease had also been found in Kenya.
So far, the South African government has rolled out a rather fatuous response to the news, saying that the country was protected for the time being by geographical distance, and that officials were monitoring likely points of the disease’s entry.
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While South Africa does have capacity to handle infectious outbreaks among animals quickly and effectively (witness the containment of foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever and African horse sickness over the years), this statement startles in its overconfidence and complacency. It would seem that our friends in government have forgotten that birds can fly.