16 May 2006

Kenya: Country Free of Bird Flu - Experts

Nairobi — There is no bird flu virus in Kenya, experts from a monitoring team have said.

More than 500 dead birds and chickens collected from various parts of the country and taken for laboratory analysis have tested negative, according to Dr Kariuki Njenga, who is in charge of the International Emerging Infections Programme.

Dr Njenga told the Nation at the University of Nairobi: "We are doing surveillance on all migratory birds. We have also tested all dead birds and chickens and they have all tested negative so far.

"We have tested each of the 500 dead birds reported in the media whose cause of death was unclear and so far, the H5N1 flu has not been detected."

Dr Cathrine Wanjohi, a member of the team, said they were focusing on creating awareness among farmers in the rural areas on bird flu.

Strategic plan

"Kenya is involved in the global strategic plan for the control of the avian flu. We are currently working on the ground right from the grassroots and district levels to create awareness on the need to report all cases of dead birds so that we can test them," she said.

"Our response team in Kabete is now fully equipped with protective clothing and masks in readiness for any quarantine measures," Dr Wanjohi said.

The two spoke after attending a lecture on bird flu at the university.

Prof P. Njenga, who gave the lecture, said: "We are not yet in a panic button stage though avian flu cases have being reported in Nigeria, Egypt, Djibouti and Sudan, but we should continue surveillance and detection even if it has not reached Kenya. But we need to have control measures in place and vaccinate those at risk against seasonal flu."

Wild birds and domestic ducks are among the flu's primary sources.

It is spread through contact with faeces, poultry feeds, contaminated water, bedding, egg trays, watering utensils and empty feeding bags.

Kenya has banned poultry imports from affected countries as a preventive measure against the bird flu. The first case in Africa was reported in Nigeria.

Poultry imports

Dr Joseph Musaa, the director of veterinary services at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, said the ban was in addition to an existing one on poultry imports from countries where the flu had been detected.

"All the swill from aircraft arriving from Nigeria shall be adequately incinerated and the aircraft adequately disinfected," Dr Musaa said, adding that surveillance at airports and other entry points had been boosted.

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