Techiman (B/A), Jan. 20, GNA - A day's workshop on Avian Influenza ("Avi bird flu") was held at Techiman in the Brong Ahafo region on Wednesday for 62 regional and district veterinary officers. It was organised by the Veterinary Service Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to update their knowledge
in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and control of the disease. The participants were expected to train their staff to help reduce human infection in the country.
Mr. Ernest Akubour Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture said the world was on alert for an imminent influenza pandemic that could result from AVI virus (H5NI) from wild birds to poultry and human beings.
He said an understanding of the epidemiology of influenza viruses in different regions of the world with early warning and detection systems were essential to achieve true and effective global preparedness for a pandemic, adding "more than 70 people had been reported dead from influenza virus since 2003."
Mr. Debrah said Ghana had instituted measures to prevent the spread of AVI from migratory birds into the local population and subsequently to human beings.
He said the country was known to have staging posts from migratory birds because of the long coastline with the many water bodies and lagoons, as well as inland water bodies such as the Volta Lake and many irrigation dams.
The Minister said an outbreak of the AVI in 2003 in the Netherlands spread to Belgium and Germany, with 250 farms affected, leading to the slaughtering of more than 28 million poultry.
He therefore, asked veterinary officers to be more committed and dedicated to intensify their sensitization efforts to detect and control Avian influenza when it was introduced into the country. Dr. Mensah Agyen-Frempong, National Director of Veterinary Service said inadequate human resource infrastructure and institutional capacity were predominant challenges to the national animal health system. He emphasized the need to create awareness among rural dwellers, especially households, poultry farmers, traders, school children and fishermen to improve the communication with regard to the occurrence of any unusual health events in the poultry industry.
Dr Agyen-Frempong called for the involvement of security agencies on measures to stop the spread of the disease, because the risk of human beings contracting it was high.
At the national level, he said, an intense inter-sectoral collaboration involving the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Veterinary Service and MOFA, development partners and a national task force for Avian influenza and human pandemic had been established.
Dr. Agyen-Frempong noted that a budget for one billion cedis had been presented to MOFA to establish a laboratory for bird flu while a national preparedness plan for avian flu and human influenza pandemic had also been prepared.
Mr. Richard Assah-Dartey, Acting Brong-Ahafo Regional Director of Agriculture, asked the participants to pass on the knowledge acquired to their technical staff to sensitize and create awareness among rural dwellers on the bird flu.
He said FAO had urged countries to strengthen their capacities for surveillance, prevention, detection and control of the disease. Mr Assah-Dartey explained that the role of the Ministry was to provide information on the disease to the public up to the village level.