A senior official of the Tanzanian ministry of health says the country will remain vigilant in the fight against avian influenza, especially because it lies on a migratory bird route.

Dr. Mohamed Ali Mohamed is an epidemiologist at Tanzania?s ministry of health in Dar es Salaam. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that Tanzania and other countries in the region are at risk for avian flu because they lie on a route taken by migratory birds from Europe and Asia every year.

He said the government is careful about importing poultry products from other countries, but the risk cannot be eliminated.

?But we are prepared in case of any (avian flu) threat or outbreak. We work as a team with other ministries in this effort to combat the avian flu threat,? he said.

Dr. Mohamed noted that Tanzania is trying hard to sensitize the people about this threat. ?We have an avian flu awareness plan. We work with other agencies like the United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF). In fact, UNICEF is the lead agency in this (awareness) campaign. We even have conducted local traditional plays in different regions of the country to make sure people understand the risk of avian influenza.?

He is not concerned that local poultry farmers might not report avian flu cases for fear of losing their birds. ?In our response plans we are discussing compensation plans to poultry farmers in case of an outbreak. This will encourage people to report any cases (of avian flu).?

Dr. Mohamed said the government is now in the process of asking for help from different organizations to create the fund. ? We have got some assistance from the AU (African Union) Avian Influenza Preparedness Fund. He mentioned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the World Health organization (WHO) as the other organizations that have promised help in case of an outbreak.

He said Tanzania was the first east African country to receive training in the detection and prevention of avian influenza. ?We have the personnel, protective gear and WHO has promised drugs.?