Laboratory tests confirm Bird Flu

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has received affirmation from the International Reference Laboratory of the World Association of Animal Health (OIE), about the outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) in four poultry farms in Accra and Tema.

Samples of birds from farms at Achimota, MacCarthy Hill and Tema tested last month by the Accra Veterinary Laboratory and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, reported positive to avian influenza (bird flu) infections.

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Fifi Kwetey, announced the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and OIE’s confirmation of bird flu infections in the country at a press briefing held in Accra yesterday, to update the media on the current avian influenza situation in Ghana.

He stated that no human cases of the avian influenza virus had been detected so far, and the ministry, together with its medical counterparts, were working hard to prevent such occurrences.

He said experts from MoFA following the preliminary findings, moved swiftly to contain the outbreaks and mitigate its spread by isolating the indentified infected farms.

He said among actions taken to avert the spread of the flu were destruction of all poultry, eggs, feed and other materials on the infected farms, and their disinfection, while workers of the affected farms were yet to be screened for symptoms of the disease.

He said the ministry, in addition to its efforts to avert the spread of the disease, requested the assistance of the FAO to support its surveillance team, after which a mission of experts arrived in the country on June 7, to provide Ghana with technical support on avian influenza response.

The minister said the avian influenza disease could easily be transmitted from birds to humans either through direct contact with sick birds or their secretions, and therefore, urged the public to desist from slaughtering sick birds, but instead report any such case to the Veterinary Services Department.

“ As of today, we have detected the disease in four poultry farms in Accra and Tema. We do not know its source and how much further it may have spread, but people handling, and especially those slaughtering sick poultry, can be particularly exposed to the virus,” he said.

Mr. Kwetey further called on the public to help the MoFA to enforce the ban on the movement of poultry and poultry products until it was established that the virus had been contained.

The Deputy Director of Veterinary Services at MoFA, Agustus Ayitey, assured the public that there was no need to panic, since it was safe for anyone to consume live chicken or birds.

The influenza virus has two different strains projecting from their surface; type one was made of protein called the Hemagglutinin (HA) which has 16 subtypes, while the second type, called Neuraminidase (NA), has nine different subtypes.

Symptoms of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, include fever, cough, muscle fatigue, severe respiratory disease and sore throat, while symptoms of infected birds include ruffled feathers, soft-shelled eggs, depression and droopiness, sudden drop in egg production, sudden death and nasal discharges.

 By Linda Aryeetey & Edna Ankrah
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