Bird Flu confirmed in Ghana

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) says samples sent to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory in Italy has affirmed the outbreak of bird flu in four farms within the Greater Accra Region.

The Ministry has however allayed the fears of the public by assuring that critical measures were being taken to contain the disease, and urged the public to continue to “freely” consume poultry because poultry and poultry products in the country were still safe for consumption.

It has also advised the public to cook the poultry products well before consumption, adding that, there was however a ban on the movement of poultry and poultry products “until we can be certain the virus has been contained”.

Mr Fiifi Kwetey, the Minister of Food Agriculture, who addressed the media in Accra on Wednesday, said the disease was detected in four poultry farms in Accra and Tema.

“We do not know how much further it may have spread, but we do know the most effective way to fight the virus is through robust collaboration of the public and our veterinary services. The sooner they are notified of a potential instance of avian influenza the sooner they can respond, which gives the virus less of a chance to spread.”

The Minister explained that following the preliminary confirmation by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Accra Veterinary Laboratory in late May this year, experts moved to contain the outbreak and mitigate its further spread by isolating identified farms and destruction of all poultry, eggs, feed and other materials on those affected farms.

He said the farms were also disinfected while a medical team had been contacted to screen all poultry workers on the affected farms for symptoms of the disease as well as a rigorous search and surveillance for avian influenza in affected and other areas have been commenced.

Mr Kwetey said the Ministry had also requested the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to support Ghana’s surveillance team to which a mission of experts had been dispatched to the country as of June 7 to assist Ghana with technical support on avian influenza response.

The Minister therefore appealed to all poultry farmers and the general public to support the response effort by reporting any instances of sick poultry or unusual mortality of poultry to the veterinary services or the nearest MoFA Office.

On the impact of the bird flu in the country, the Minister said the disease represented a serious threat to the poultry sector that had been growing in recent years with domestic production currently accounting for 30 per cent of domestic demand.

Dr Hannah Bisiw, the Deputy Minister in charge of Livestock at MoFA explained that avian influenza was a viral disease that could be transmitted from birds to human through direct contact with sick birds or their secretions, therefore people should be careful how they handled their sick birds.

She advised the public to monitor both domestic birds and other pet birds they kept at home and report to the veterinary office should they notice any changes in them.

She also appealed to owners of the affected poultry farms to cooperate with the authorities to help find the source of the influenza outbreak in the country for better management, saying, we still do not know the source of the disease”.

Meanwhile Ghana has appealed to the international community for additional support and resources “during this time of need to effectively safeguard not only Ghana’s poultry sector but also the poultry industry of West Africa as a whole” GNA

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