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25.10.2005 Health

Ministry of Health, others meet on bird flu

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Accra, Oct. 25, GNA - Dr Lawson Ahadzie, Acting Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, on Tuesday warned that the avian or bird flu that had engulfed Asian countries would have a devastating impact on the socio-economic development should it emerge in Ghana. He said there was a possibility that the flu, a contagious disease of animal caused by viruses, could enter into the country and cause severe diseases in humans, who might contract it from infected poultry. Speaking at an inter-sectoral emergency meeting on the situation of the flu, Dr Ahadzie said spreading of the disease should be of much concern because "if given enough opportunities, it will change into a form that is highly infectious to humans and spread easily from person to person. Such a change could mark the start of a global outbreak". There are two forms of the flu, the mild one that commonly causes mild symptoms like ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production and the severe form that affects multiple organs and may lead to 100 per cent mortality within 48 hours.

According to Dr Ahadzie, the flu had currently infected more than 100 people in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam killing more than half of them.

He warned that once international spread began, pandemics were considered unstoppable as they spread very rapidly by coughing or sneezing.

He said the influenza pandemics were remarkable events that could rapidly infect virtually all countries. On Ghana's preparation towards the flu, Dr Ahadzie said the Ministry through its National Surveillance Unit, had alerted all regions on the flu pandemic threat.

A process of collecting literature on influenza had started as well as a question and answer document prepared to be used to create awareness among the general public. He said measures to build on the efforts and experience from the preparedness for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had also been adopted with the preparation plan on avian and human flu put in place.

He said an interagency committee made up of the Committee used during the SARS period and others institutions like the Veterinary Services, Wild Life, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Forestry and Mines would be inaugurated in November to strategise against the possible invasion of the flu.