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First case of H5N1 bird flu confirmed in Ghana

First case of H5N1 bird flu confirmed in Ghana

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has spread to fowl in the West African nation of Ghana, a World Health Organization official confirmed Wednesday.
Ghanaian officials had said earlier this week they were investigating a suspected outbreak of the disease in birds around the eastern port city of Tema. Though H5N1 had been documented elsewhere in the region, Ghana had not previously had a case confirmed, the Health Ministry said.
Sophia Twum-Barimah, a WHO spokeswoman in Ghana's capital, Accra, said the virus was first detected by a Ghanian lab and then confirmed by an Egyptian research center.
"The public should remain calm. The situation is being technically and expertly handled," Health Minister Ernest Debrah told reporters. He added that there was "no need for panic or fear of poultry."
He said 145 birds on the same farm were infected, but that no people had been infected.
H5N1 has killed at least 172 people worldwide since it began its spread through Asian poultry in 2003, according to WHO. Most human deaths come from contact with infected birds, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people.
Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, was the first on the continent to report an outbreak of the disease last year. Outbreaks have also been reported in Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Niger, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Burkina Faso.
Ghana had stepped up surveillance to try to prevent incursion of the disease: banning imported poultry and related products from Asia and some neighboring countries, including Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
Debrah said measures had been taken to contain the virus, including the immediate closure of Tema area bird markets and a ban on transporting birds in or out of the area. He said more than 1,500 birds had already been destroyed as a precaution. The government has pledged to pay 50-90 percent of market value as compensation for culled animals, Debrah said.
The HN51 virus is particularly worrisome in Africa, where poverty and poor health care means disease spreads quickly.
In January, a young woman became the first Nigerian to die from H5N1. Djibouti and Egypt have also reported infections in humans and eleven people have died of the disease in Egypt.


Updated : 2021-06-21 11:43 GMT+08:00