Bird flu hits region

Press reports at the weekend said at least 260 chickens and ducks in the small town of Tshikapa in the south-central province of Kasai area had died of suspected avian flu. In a day 100 chickens were found dead but health workers reported that more had been eaten by the owners. “The problem is most of the dead chickens have been eaten,” permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture Ali Ramazani was quoted as saying. Announcing the development at a press conference Agriculture minister Constant Ndom Nda appealed to the United Nations to move in and help contain the outbreak which was yet to be verified as being actually the killer bird flu which has been steadily spreading across the world having started in Asia. Poultry imports account for 90 percent of Congo’s supplies in the commodity. The remaining 10 percent, or some 20 million free-range poultry, are reared in the country. On Monday the Congolese authorities quarantined a shipload of chicken products from Germany, Belgium and Poland. Reacting to the development its northern neighbour Zambia imposed a ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products. The Zambian government has also put a stop to the transportation chickens apart from day-old chicks and eggs. Unfortunately found among the dead are migratory birds that have no border restriction. At an urgent three-day conference that ended on Wednesday, African countries and UN agencies meeting in Gabon’s capital Libreville declared a full-fledged fight against the flu. The declaration stated that the continent needs at least three more veterinary laboratories and three more human health laboratories that can ably investigate the virus. According to a joint declaration released after the three-day conference on bird flu, which ended on Wednesday, each country needs to implement internationally approved measures, and to give priority to preparing an integrated plan in order to fight the disease. The declaration said the leaders of African countries should “give proof of a firm political engagement” in the fight against bird flu. “We reaffirm the need for countries and the international community to mobilise additional financial and technical resources, from local and international sources,” said the communiqu’. Representatives at the meeting agreed that Africa needs more virus-testing facilities to identify the H- and N- sub-types of bird flu, which is essential in appraising the risk from specific outbreaks and tracing the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain.

March 2006
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