Malawi dispatched blood and tissue samples to neighboring South Africa on Friday to be tested for avian influenza after thousands of migratory birds were found dead on a hill in the central Ntchisi district. Agriculture officials expressed alarm after local villagers started scooping up the dead fork-tailed drongos, known locally as namzenze, to eat earlier this week in the district about 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital, Lilongwe.
"Someone alerted police that people are feasting on mysterious manna from heaven," said Wilfred Lipita, director of livestock and animal health in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. "We sent officials to caution the people not to eat them since they may have the avian flu which has proved deadly to humans in other countries."
The H5N1 strain of bird flu has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia since 2003, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 160,000 million birds. It has also killed at least 71 people. Health officials fear the virus could spark a pandemic if it mutates into a form easily passed from human to human, reports the AP. I.L.