Accra, March 17, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health on Friday called on Ghanaians not to shun well-cooked poultry products, saying they were safe for consumption and could not transmit the deadly H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza.
At an interactive meeting held in Accra between health officials and journalists on the safety of local poultry meat and eggs, Major Quashigah said unfounded fears of disease transmission among sections of the general public had led to a fall in poultry consumption.
"There is no harm in eating chicken that is well-cooked", he said, adding that the fall in poultry consumption was negatively "affecting local poultry producers and restaurant operators."
Major Quashigah said the multi-sectoral taskforce established to co-ordinate Ghana's preparedness and response to the Avian Influenza outbreak had given the assurance that local poultry was safe from the disease.
To demonstrate the safety of locally produced poultry meat, the Health Minister publicly ate a piece of grilled chicken. Dr Joaquim Saweka, Country Director, World Health Organisation, said there was no reason why people should "give up on eating chicken", adding that the situation in Ghana was under control.
Dr George Amofa, Director of Public Health, Ghana Health Service, said a community-based surveillance system was in place to facilitate the quick detection of an outbreak of the disease in Ghana.
He said virologists at the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research had undergone training to update their capacity to diagnose and confirm the Avian Influenza disease, otherwise known as bird flu. He called for a check on uninformed discussions about the disease on the airwaves, adding that focus on the disease should rather be on the transmission from human to human, which posed a more serious threat. Dr Mensah Agyen-Frempong, Director of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said the Ministry had embarked on a massive campaign, using the electronic and print media to educate farmers and the general public on early signs of the bird flu disease.
He said the H5N1 Virus could easily be destroyed in poultry meat and eggs cooked above 70 degrees Celsius, adding that the local poultry industry should not be made to collapse "because there is a dangerous virus out there".
Lt Col Nick Sowatey (rtd), Acting Deputy National Coordinator, National Disaster Management Organisation, said Disaster Management Committees at the regional and district levels were fully functional and were coordinating the entire effort at ensuring that the bird flu did not enter the country and if it did combat it effectively.