Large quantities of poultry products continue to be destroyed in the country following the report of the third case of the deadly Avian influenza in Tema and an international confirmation of the disease in Ghana.
Moments after earlier samples sent for testing in Italy had confirmed the H5N1 virus in the country, the third case in a week hit Adjei Kojo, near Ashaiman in the Tema municipality last Tuesday and occasioned the destruction of about 12,000 birds, 323 crates of eggs and 375 kilogrammes of feed.
Details of the Adjei Kojo incident were released to journalists by Dr Darlington Owusu, Head of the Avian Influenza Surveillance Team, with the assurance that the team would work hard to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.
He advised poultry farmers to ensure that they fed their birds with uncontaminated feed and co-operated with the team in efforts aimed at preventing the spread of the disease.
He advised Ghanaians against eating dead birds and urged consumers to cook poultry products for a long period in order to destroy any traces of the virus.
Dr Owusu further advised that strange deaths among birds should immediately be reported to the Veterinary Services Division (VSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).
He also announced that the government was paying compensation of between 50 and 90 per cent of the market value of birds, eggs and other items destroyed upon detection of the disease to affected poultry farmers.
The authorities also confirmed the H5N1 virus in the country yesterday upon the receipt of the report on the first sample sent to Italy for testing.
“The report from the OIE FAO and National Reference Laboratory for Newcastle and Avian Influenza in Padova, Italy, says the samples from Ghana are positive of the H5N1,” the Deputy Director of the VSD of MOFA, Dr Francis Konadu-Ampratwum, said in an interview.
According to him, there was no cause to doubt reports of bird flu in the country, since tests conducted at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and a US Naval Laboratory in Egypt, both World Health Organisation (WHO) certified reference centres, had proved positive.
The MOFA, on May 2, 2007, announced the discovery of the first case of the bird flu in the country at a farm near Tema. That led to the destruction of all birds on the farm, numbering 1,678, as well as those in adjoining houses. Also all carcasses were incinerated and the remains buried.
The ministry thereby declared the Tema municipality an Avian influenza infested area, adding that there should be no movement of live birds within and out of the municipality until further notice.
It said all live bird markets were immediately closed, while investigations continued for the detection of any further virus in other areas.
Dr Konadu-Ampratwum said the second outbreak of the bird flu occurred at a farm near where the third case was found at Adjei Kojo.
Meanwhile, the VSD of MOFA has assured the public that Ghana has the necessary equipment to test the Avian influenza virus.
"The Veterinary Services has an Avian Influenza Diagnostic Laboratory which was refurbished in April 2006 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the NMIMR, which has an advanced facility — the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) — to detect genre of the virus," Dr Enoch Boye-Mensah Koney, the Director of Veterinary Services, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra.
He was refuting claims by the Tema Municipal Poultry and Livestock Farmers Association and Farmers' Union which had doubted the authenticity of the reported outbreak of the H5NI Bird flu in the municipality.
Dr Koney explained that the specimen which was collected from the farm in Tema was first sent to the Veterinary Services Laboratory, then to Noguchi and the US Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, Cairo, Egypt, for confirmation.
"Samples were further taken to the International Animal Health Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Padova, Italy, to determine the sequencing or the type of strain of the virus,” he said.
Story by Rose Hayford
& Emmanuel Bonney