Tamale, June 22, GNA - Dr Mathias Kojo Ayensu, Northern Regional Veterinary Officer, has called on the media to help create public awareness on the outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in certain sections of the country.
'An immediate priority is to halt the further spread of epidemics in poultry populations to reduce opportunities for human exposure to the virus,' he said.
Dr Ayensu said this during a stakeholders' meeting organised by National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) in Tamale.
The meeting was held to discuss the possible ways of preventing and containing the outbreak of bird influenza from spreading to the region.
He said the vaccination of persons at high risk of exposure to infected poultry, using existing vaccines, could reduce the risk of humans transmitting the disease.
He said workers involved in the culling of poultry should be protected with proper clothing and equipment against the infection of the disease, adding that farmers should also receive antiviral drugs as a prophylactic measure to reduce likelihood that the deadly disease strain would emerge.
He said a person affected by the disease would develop symptoms of fever, sore throat and cough, severe respiratory distress secondary to viral pneumonia (in fatal cases), should report to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.
Dr Ayensu said no person should touch any dead bird, be it domestic or wild, with bare hands adding that farmers should also prevent other animals, such as cats, dogs, vultures and crows, from getting access to the carcasses.
He also advised farmers to report all flu symptoms of birds to the veterinary service, adding that government has a package for farmers, who would be affected by the disease.
Dr Ayensu said Bird flu or avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strain of the influenza virus which could also infect pigs and humans.
He said the infected birds could show various symptoms ranging from mild illness to a highly contagious and rapidly fatal disease: 'Various symptoms like the low virulent form might lead to ruffle feathers, soft shelled eggs and a drop in egg production.'
'However, the highly pathogenic avian influenza or the highly virulent form is characterised by sudden, severe illness, affecting multiple internal organs and rapid death, with a mortality that can approach 100 per cent.'