A national team composed of multi-sectoral specialists has started monitoring bird flu so as to assist in the prevention of the fatal epidemic in Tanzania.
The 18-member team is assessing and reviewing the epidemiological status of the disease, undertaking risk analyses and preparing contingency and emergency measures.
The team has already worked out a three-phase operational plan that consists of pre-pandemic, pandemic and post-pandemic stages.
The team will also coordinate epidemic surveillance and bio- security operations and form a national command post in the event of the disease breakout in the country.
Virological studies have so far pinpointed to the probability of wild birds spreading the disease, known by its scientific term as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.
Severe winters in Europe this year might lead to an increase of wild migratory birds to East Africa. Europe is experiencing its severest winter in the past 70 years.
Dr. Meta Grasford Yongolo from the virology department of the Animal Diseases Research Institute, predicted that as many as 15 million birds are coming to Tanzania from Europe for warmer and wetter weather conditions.
The bird flu virus is easily transmitted through air from migratory birds to such house fowls as chickens and ducks.
The country has already banned imports of chicken or poultry products while the East African Community has set up a special body and a special fund of 54 million US dollars to coordinate efforts by member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the prevention of bird flu.
The coordination body not only consists of public health officials from the EAC member states but also advisors from international institutions like the World Health Organization.
The United Nations has warned the east African countries that there is a serious risk that the scenario of a potential spread of the bird flu through migratory birds to northern and eastern Africa may become a reality.
The East Africa Rift Valley hosts many bird species that relocate seasonally to and from Europe for hot-wet weather conditions. Birds that migrate to Europe return to the rift valley during summer in the southern hemisphere.
The United Nations issued the warning after the H5N1 strain of virus or bird flu virus had been detected in Romania and Turkey in October this year.
The virus has ravaged poultry in East Asia and has spread to Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and now eastern Europe.
The bird flu epidemic is fatal to human beings as it causes deaths if untreated. In 2003, it killed more than 60 people in Asia alone.