According to the Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the only way out of Bird Flu, also known as the Highly Pathogenic Apian Influenza (HPAI), and its devastating effects is to ensure a nationwide sensitisation as a mitigating and containment measure for the poultry sector.
According to the Director, Veterinary Services Directorate, Dr Patrick Abakeh, timely communication and stakeholder engagements were key.
Stakeholders, farmers and poultry value chain actors should know their collective roles to contain the situation.
A nationwide sensitisation will offer an interactive engagement to among others, foster clarity on stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities, as well as build consensus on issues of mutual interest.
This seeks to provide an understanding and appreciation of the significance of government’s intervention and the critical support required of the stakeholders.
According to the VSD of MoFA, the first bird flu outbreak in Ghana was reported in April 2007 on a farm at Kakasunanka near Michel Camp in the Tema Metropolis.
This was followed by further outbreaks at New Dormaa Sunyani in the Bono Region and Aflao in the Volta Region.
The disease re-occurred in the year 2015 and further crossed over to the year 2016 in six regions of Ghana, namely Greater Accra, Central, Eastern, Western, Volta and Ashanti, affecting 148,448 birds.
In June 2018, some outbreaks were reported at Bonkra and Atia in the Ashanti Region, as well as Nkawkaw in the Eastern Region, affecting 12,175 birds.
The last outbreak occurred on July 7, 2021 on a farm at Nungua in the Greater Accra Region. The viral nature of the disease caused its rapid spread throughout the country, affecting 12 regions.
The affected regions were Greater Accra, Eastern, Volta, Central, Ashanti, Western, Western North, Bono, Bono East, Upper West, Upper East and North East.
A total of 280 farms have been affected by the HPAI and a total of 997,743 birds have been destroyed so far.
The bird flu is a disease of viral origin that ranges from mild or even sometimes no symptoms to a very fatal disease of chicken, turkeys, guinea fowls and wild birds. It is zoonotic, in the sense that it can transferred from birds to humans.
It is refreshing to note that the government has so far paid compensation to some affected poultry farmers for birds that were culled (destroyed) from July 2021 to December 2021 to a tune of GH¢15,630,913.33.
To control the disease, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture applied to the government for support.
The government in turn approved an amount of GH¢43,984,017.70, of which the Ministry of Finance has so far released about GH¢20 million.
An approval has also been given to recruit 1,100 veterinary personnel, out of which 550 of them have so far been recruited and posted to their various stations.
The remaining 550 veterinary staff will be recruited and posted within a period of two years.
A major activity for controlling the disease is sensitisation and educating the public about the devastating nature of the disease.
Symptoms of bird flu
The VSD is urging poultry farmers to look out for the following:
Sudden death, lack of energy and appetite, decreased productivity (eggs, soft shelled or misshaped eggs), swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles and hocks, purple discolouration of wattles, combs and legs, nasal discharge, coughing and sneezing, incoordination and diarrhoea.
There is a total ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products from neighbouring countries where the outbreak has been confirmed.
There is also a ban on movement of poultry and poultry products from the affected regions.
The VSD requests the public to report any suspicious movement of poultry and poultry products to the
police and the other security services for action. Farmers should report any unusual deaths in domestic, commercial poultry and wild birds to the nearest veterinary office.
Dead birds should never be handled with bare hands. All poultry meat, as well as eggs should be well cooked before consumption.
All internal movements of poultry and poultry products must undergo veterinary inspection and be accompanied by veterinary movement permit.
All farmers are to take note of the following:
Do not accept birds, eggs or manure from other farms into your farm. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling birds.
There is also the need to confine your birds away from other animals or wild birds. Farm sanitation is a priority. Ensure to burn or bury dead birds and waste at a reasonable distance away from the farmhouse.
Farmers are advised to clean their shoes and clothing when coming back from other farms or poultry markets.
Wearing of protective clothing such as masks, gloves or plastic bags when handling sick or dead birds should not be taken for granted. Always change clothes after working on the farm.
After all these, Ghana will be on the safe path to reducing the devastating effects of bird flu and other animal diseases.
Thankfully, the ministry has resourced and put up effective surveillance and disease control management steps to contain the disease. The success of this hinges on the full cooperation of farmers and the public.