Accra, Feb. 9, GNA - Ghana has placed a ban on the importation of all poultry products from countries to the east of Ghana including Nigeria with immediate effect, Dr Mensah Agyen-Frempong, Director of Veterinary Service Department (VSD), said on Thursday.
By implication any poultry product being brought into the country from these countries, irrespective of the origin, by any person or organisation, would be confiscated, he said.
The ban followed reports of the detection of a high pathogenic bird flu virus in the Northern State of Kaduna, Nigeria, where 150,000 birds were reported dead with about 40 per cent of poultry farms infected. Dr Agyen-Frempong told the GNA in an interview that the decision to impose the ban was taken by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) upon the advice of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA). He said an Early Response Team had also been constituted in waiting to provide emergency service in the event of detection of symptoms of the disease in any part of the country.
Dr Agyen-Frempong said the Early Response Team had been instructed and given the authority to destroy all birds with symptoms of the disease; disinfect the environment in which they were found and stop the movement of people in the area.
"We have dispatched veterinary officers across the country to educate poultry farmers and dealers in poultry products.
"We want to appeal to poultry farmers to watch out for such symptoms as blackening of the combs of birds; swollen wattle; rickety legs; laying of eggs without shell; loss of appetite in birds and death within 48 hours and report them to the veterinary officer." He said farmers would be paid compensation in the event that their birds were found to be infected and destroyed by the veterinary officers.
Dr Agyen-Frempong explained that the virus existed in the faecal matter and nostril excreta of the birds, which usually got mixed up with the other litter on the poultry farm. He said early detection of symptoms in humans could be treated with anti-viral drugs.
"Our only fear now is about migrating water birds, believed to be the main carriers of the virus, whose movement cannot be restricted," he said.
Health authorities and officials of the poultry industry in Ghana expressed concern about the detection of the bird flu in neighbouring Nigeria and held high-level closed-door meetings to determine the way forward.
The detection of the deadly disease in Nigeria has been described as 'close' considering the huge movement of people and goods between the two countries and possibility of generating a spill-over into the country.
Officials of the Veterinary Service Department, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and other stakeholders said they were unanimous on the need for urgent measures to block the entry of diseased poultry into the country.
Poultry farmers in the country have also voiced concern over the possible devastating effect of the bird flu in the country. Bird flu is a deadly strain of a virus that attacks poultry birds and kills them after a short period. The deadly H5N1 bird flu can kill humans and has killed at least 88 people in Asia and the Middle East since 2003. Experts have expressed fears that an outbreak in Africa could pose a serious threat given the already weak public health systems and the fact that many rural people live close to chickens and other poultry.