More than 40 wild birds were discovered dead in Livingston, southern Zambia, a major nesting area for migratory birds, on Wednesday . Some villagers ate a few of the birds, and samples were collected to be sent for testing in Lusaka, the capital.
Mathews Ngosa, executive director of Poultry Association said a delay on the part of the government in confirming Zambia's status has, "killed our industry as people are now avoiding eating chickens".
State television footage of dead crows, on Thursday, seriously affected sales, according to the chicken traders at the sprawling Soweto market in Lusaka.
Epidemiologist, Christian Chisembele, of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the preliminary investigations suggested that the dead birds were H5N1 negative, but further tests are to be carried out, "until we are satisfied".
World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, Stella Anyangwe, appealed for people to maintain calm while the tests were being carried out. She said there were about 120 viruses that could destroy wild birds, but only the H5N1 caused concern, because of its capacity to infect humans.
"There is no need for people to panic just as yet, because the birds could be dying from a different type of flu. We can only worry, especially over the people who have consumed the dead birds, if the disease suspected to be killing these birds is proved to be H5N1," she said.
The UN's Food Agriculture Organization has sent some of the samples to South Africa to be further examined and the results are expected during the weekend.
Migratory birds are the main carriers of the H5N1 virus. In recent months, the H5N1 virus in poultry has been reported in five African countries, but so far no report of an outbreak has been detected in South Africa.
According to the WHO bird flu has taken more than 50 lives since the start of this year, with 26 deaths reported in Indonesia alone.