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03.05.2007 Health

Let's Contain Bird Flu

It is unfortunate that the bird flu has been detected in the Tema area of the Greater Accra Region. Certainly the outbreak will inflict pain and uneasiness among poultry farmers in the area.

However, it is our humble submission that the farmers should not panic, even though we empathise with them, since the destruction of their birds means the loss of investment.

It is expected that the surveillance mechanism has worked assiduously to ward off the outbreak when it occurred in Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

At that time, there was massive anxiety that our poultry farmers would be affected by the outbreak, but adequate safeguards were instituted to ward off the disease.

Between 2003 and April 2007, 291 cases of bird flu were reported globally, with 172 deaths.

Happily, the flu does not jump easily to humans and so it is important that the necessary precautions are taken, so that people do not suffer from the consequences of being contaminated with the disease.

Whatever the situation, we take consolation from the fact that the farmers did not try to sell the affected birds to unsuspecting customers with the view to recouping what would otherwise be lost.

As a nation, it is unfortunate that just when we are struggling to put the poultry sub-sector into good shape, we should be confronted with the problem of bird flu.

Over the years, there have been persistent calls that the poultry industry should be put on a high pedestal so that the country's protein requirement would be met to reduce cases of malnourishment, especially among our children.

Many questions have been asked as to why, as an agricultural country, we are unable to produce enough poultry and poultry products such as eggs which can help effectively in the school feeding programme, for instance.

There is no justification why the country has not been able to produce enough maize, the largest component in the poultry industry, apart from fish meal.

Whatever our problems may be, the issue is that the bird flu is here with us and we have to take every step to contain its spread.

This will call for unalloyed co-operation from all those who will be tasked to deal with the situation. The general public should be well educated to be on the alert as to what to do.

The greatest co-operation would have to come from poultry farmers in the affected area, since it may happen that their birds would have to be destroyed.

It is our considered opinion that when the situation is brought under control, the affected farmers would be given some form of support to enable them to go back to the industry.