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12.10.2005 General News

Govt allays fears of outbreak of bird flu

By Daily Graphic
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The government has banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from 10 countries as part of measures to prevent the introduction of bird flu into the country.

The 10 countries are China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and South Korea. The rest are Japan, Taiwan, Laos and Pakistan.

The Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) is also recommending to the government to ban imports of those products from Turkey and Romania, which have also reported significant outbreaks of the disease.

In addition, the Veterinary Services Division has set up surveillance units' countrywide, including the ports of entry, to monitor the movement of poultry and birds.

Another measure is the need for importers of meat and poultry products to first obtain permits from the division before importation.

Director of the Veterinary Services Division, Dr Mensah Agyen-Frempong, and the Deputy Commercial Officer of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Kwesi Baafi assured the public that measures instituted so far was unlikely that Ghana would experience an outbreak of bird flu.

The bird flu, or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), is a contagious poultry disease that can be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected poultry.

Dr Agyen-Frempong explained that it was possible for migratory birds to also carry the virus of the disease, and therefore staff members of the Wildlife Division had also been directed to be vigilant and take appropriate action on the least suspicion.

He advised poultry farmers to be on the look out and report to the nearest veterinary officer unusual signs among their birds.

Dr Agyen-Frempong said signs of bird flu or avian influenza, were extremely variable, saying that in some flocks the only evidence of the infection was birds developing a detectable antibody which could manifest as a respiratory, enteric and nervous system disease.

On his party, Mr Baafi said the ministry was monitoring the outbreak of the disease in some Asian and other countries for appropriate measures to safeguard the health of Ghanaians.

He said although the country was operating under a trade liberalization scheme, there was no likelihood of poultry products infected with the virus entering the country.

He said the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), had been served notices of the ban and the two agencies were taking all precautionary measures to ensure that poultry and poultry products into the country were safe.

He said even when a permit was given and the products were brought into the country,the Veterinary Service Division collected samples to check for their safety.