Rift Valley countries appeal for urgent aids for bird flu surveillance

The east African Rift Valley countries, a vulnerable area to the lethal strain of bird flu, Tuesday appealed for emergency aids for their poor-equipped animaldisease surveillance system.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, nations favored by wild
birds to escape winter, have been exposed to the risk of a bird
flu outbreak since migration birds from Europe may carry the
deadly H5N1 strain.

"Ugandan local experts have fanned out across the country to
collecting samples from migration flocks for further laboratory
analysis," said a Ugandan veterinary on discussion bird flu
control during the 7th African Union conference for animal
resources being held in Kigali, Rwanda's capital.

"But we do need international supports as currently there isn't
a lab network in position to carry out bird flu tests," said the

Followers from Kenya and Ethiopia echoed Uganda's cries, said
the Rift Valley countries, with per capital health expenditure
below 10 US dollars, had not enough labs and trained veterinarians
to track the disease, especially in the dire-needed rural areas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations warned
last week that millions of migratory birds are set to reach the
African continent by December or next spring from Europe where
bird flu has been found among fowls and winter is fast approaching.

According to the FAO, the east African Rift Valley countries,
with dozens of lakes, a warm and moist climate, will be
particularly threatened by the high pathogenic avian influenza
that has killed more than 60 people in Asia and may mutate into a
virus communicable among humans.

Chief FAO veterinary officer Joseph Domenech worried that
insufficient surveillance, lack of disease control capacity and
the close proximity between people and animals in east African
countries had created an ideal breeding ground for the virus.

Over 40 African nations started the first emergency bird flu
talks here from Monday following the United Nations alert to
define a prevention scheme for the poor-prepared continent to keep
the deadly disease away.

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