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Uganda at Forefront of Avian Flu Surveillance and Detection


East Africa continues to face the threat of an avian flu outbreak because the region lies on the path of a migratory bird route from East Asia. In an effort to avert a possible outbreak, countries in the region have set up avian flu task forces. In Uganda, the National Avian Flu Task Force is at the forefront of surveillance and detection.

Dr. Winyi Kaboyo is the secretary of Uganda’s National Avian Flu Task Force. In Kampala, he told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that members of the task force have been monitoring and taking samples from wild birds in an effort to detect the avian flu virus.

“We have identified three major migratory birds routes through Uganda: in the west along Lake Albert and Lake Edward, in the east along the Rift Valley; and in central Uganda,” he said.

He said after a reported bird flu case in Sudan in late 2006, his task force commissioned rapid response teams that trained personnel in several districts in the northern part of the country. Uganda shares a border with Sudan in the north.

“We have also had monitoring around the border points. There was a suspected human case in Koboko (northern Uganda), which we investigated. Luckily, the lady who was suspected was negative of any trace of avian flu.”

Dr. Kaboyo said Uganda is developing the capacity to handle avian flu detection. “At first we did not have a laboratory that could test for type A H5 influenza virus. Fortunately, through our partnership with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States) and the World Health Organization (WHO), we have put together a national influenza center at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.”

He said Uganda has also trained laboratory technologists and has the supplies, and therefore able to carry out tests allowing them to at least identify the H5 portion of the virus.

Dr. Kaboyo said the task force, in partnership with development partners, has had a number of activities aimed at creating awareness. “We urge people not to relax and to keep vigilant and report any cases.”

The Uganda National Task Force includes officials from the ministries of health and agriculture and animal industry, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, poultry farmers and other stakeholders.