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Ghana Reports First Case of Bird Flu


Authorities in Ghana say they are investigating reports of an outbreak of bird flu at a small poultry farm. This is the first report of bird flu infection in the West African nation. For VOA, Efam Dovi reports from the capital, Accra.

Officials say the deadly N5H1 strain of the Avian Influenza virus was detected last week in a small commercial farm near the harbor city of Tema.

Ghana's minister of food and agriculture, Ernest Debrah, confirmed this to journalists in Accra Wednesday.

"Our Accra Veterinary laboratory diagnosed what looked like avian influenza in samples taken from a small scale poultry farm in the Tema Metropolitan area," said Ernest Debrah. "Further testing in the same laboratory confirmed avian Influenza, samples were also sent to Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research and they proved positive."

Debrah says samples from the farm have also been sent to the World Health Organization's Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory in Italy for verification.

He says all the chickens on the farm and adjoining houses have been killed.

The minister says the government has issued a ban on the movement of live birds in the region to prevent the spread of the disease.

"The following measures come into force immediately: The Tema metropolitan area is declared an avian influenza infected area; there shall be no movement of any live birds from any farm in the area, including local birds within the area and outside the Tema metropolitan area until further notice," he said. "All live bird markets are immediately closed, investigations are continuing and if the disease is detected anywhere, the list will be expanded."

Ghana already has a ban on the importation of poultry from all countries that have recorded cases of the disease.

All of Ghana's West African neighbors have recorded cases of bird flu. One person recently died of the disease in Nigeria's leading commercial city, Lagos. No human infection has been detected in Ghana.