Bridge species of wild birds affected for the first time in Ghana in this year’s bird flu outbreak are; partridges, quails, and pigeons, Dr Richard Suuire, an Epidemiologist and Manager of Accra Zoo has said.
He disclosed that migratory water fowls like geese, ducks and swans as well as migratory shore birds like heron, egrets, curlews, plovers among others are involved in H5N1 virus.
Dr Suuire was making a presentation on the topic; Wild-life and bird-flu at a day’s sensitisation workshop at Ejisu in the Ashanti Region to expose veterinary doctors and technical staff to emerging issues in bird flu disease which started in April.
Sponsored by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), it was the second after a similar one in Accra organised to re-equip veterinarians in the southern and middle zone with updated knowledge about the situation as far as the disease is concerned and how to control the spread and prevent any new occurrence in the country.
It was to build the capacity of veterinary doctors and technical staff to enable them to sensitise and educate farmers on what to do to prevent them getting out of their businesses due to the unannounced nature of the disease.
Topics discussed were; sampling and laboratory diagnoses, bio security for control of bird flu, standard operating practice and reporting on bird flu, movement of poultry and poultry products/compensation, inspection and regulations of poultry and poultry products at ports, harbours and borders as well as public health importance of Avian Influenza.
Dr Suuire disclosed that migratory waterfowls arriving in the country are ducks, Swan and geese, waders, terns, gulls, Ibis, pelicans, cormorants, bitterns, heron and egrets.
He said the Tono irrigation dam is a major destination site for these birds.
Non-migratory bridge species made up of several bird groups without particularly strong ties to wetland habitats, but with a high tolerance for human-altered habitats, have also been known to become infected fatally from H5N1.
He said Ghana is considered a biologically rich country, with various kinds of species, including mammals (220), Birds (725) (176 regular seasonal migrants), Bats (74), rodents (37), and many reptiles and Insects.
Dr Suuire said illegal movement of wild birds for sale (Pets), bush meat are some risk behaviours which should be prevented.
He said the contingency plans for zoos are, protecting stock from infection, prevent contact between wild birds and their faeces and zoo birds, prevent entry of the virus in infected food products, all birds – regardless of source should be quarantined for minimum of 21 days and imported birds should be looked after by non-bird staff during quarantine.
He said the wild life division faces challenges some of which are; inadequate number of wildlife veterinary professionals for wildlife practice and wildlife epidemiologic intelligence, inadequate equipment and transport for field activities (Cold chain etc.) and inadequate reagents as well as consumables for some wildlife diseases.
He appealed to people to report or submit dead or sick wild birds, especially in farms for further investigation whenever the notice clinical signs such as sudden death, discharges from nose, mouth, swollen and discoloration of head, abnormal feathers, behavioural abnormalities - falling over, head tilt, head and neck twisting (torticollis), circling, paralysis, seizures and any other abnormalities in the birds.
Dr William Amanfo, FAO Consultant who spoke on Disease ‘Recognition of bird flu’ also pointed out various sources of the disease including; wild birds, captive game birds, dead birds/poultry, poultry bought from open markets, animal feed bags, fomites -soiled (contaminated) water and feed and stray dogs and rodents and scavenging pigs.
He also talked about manure not properly disposed tyres of trucks, cars and bikes, soiled hands, feet, clothes and shoes of visitors, soiled wheel barrow, farm equipment tools and activities of egg and manure traders are sources of the disease.
Dr Amanfo said when infected the poultry may die so fast that cages are soon empty resulting in severe economic effects to a country.
He said FAO’s response was in the form of an approval of an ‘LOA’’ for $ 25 000-rapid procurement of laboratory and field consumables; part of an overall USAID support of $ 100 000 to Ghana through FAO Headquarters.
A technical cooperation project for the prevention and control of HPAI in Ghana is also being developed.
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