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13.02.2006 General News

Veterinary Department prepares for bird flu

By GNA

Accra, Feb. 13, GNA - Following reported cases of the avian bird flu disease in neighbouring Nigeria, the Ghana Veterinary Services Department on Monday said it was ready to combat any emergency situation at home.

Dr Francis Konadu-Ampratwum, Principal Veterinary Officer, said the Service had prepared jointly with the Ministry of Health and some Development Partners a 56-page document outlining measures in addition to more than 700 field men and 140 veterinary doctors to go into operation to contain the disease.

A budget for the operation and also to pay compensation to farmers whose birds would be destroyed if the disease should occur had been prepared.

Avian influenza, nicknamed "bird flu", is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally affect only birds and less commonly pigs.

Avian bird flu viruses are highly species-specific but have on rare occasions crossed the species barrier to infect humans. As at January this year, the World Health Organisation had confirmed 146 cases in humans in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Turkey leading to 76 deaths.

Dr Konadu-Ampratwum told a press conference organised jointly by the General Agricultural Workers Union, the Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana and the Friedriech Ebert Foundation, in Accra on the nation's preparedness for the bird flu.

He said no case of bird flu had been reported and neither was there any suspicion on the disease.

Dr Konadu-Ampratwum said the symptoms of bird flu were similar to those of the Newcastle disease and made the birds to develop bluish combs. They lay eggs without shells and it is accompanied with high mortality rates.

He said confinement was very important to contain the disease, which could be deadly to humans.

Dr Konadu-Ampratwum advised farmers to report any sign of bird flu to the Service promptly, assuring them that adequate compensation would be paid if their birds should be destroyed. Mr Ken Quartey, President of the Ghana Poultry Farmers Association recommended bio-security by using disinfectants at both entry and exit points to their farms.

He said the farmers should ensure that workers who handled birds washed their hands with soap or disinfectants after handling them and should also prevent free range birds to enter premises. Mr Quartey urged the farmers to also ensure optimum rodent and insect control as well as keeping different domestic birds and animals separately, particularly pigs, ducks and chickens. He said all mortalities should be handled by using protective polythene gear to protect them against coming into naked contact with faecal material or body fluids from carcasses. Mr Quartey called for a temporary waiver of post mortem charges and said the hotlines or contact numbers to veterinary officers and stations should be publicly made known.

He also called for a thorough cooking of all poultry products. Mr Samuel Kanga, General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union called for a total ban on all poultry imports. He said Ghana must also ratify Convention 184 of the International Labour Organisation to ensure the safety of agricultural workers.

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