Shs12 billion needed to contain deadly bird flu

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Kampala. The government will have to dig deeper into its cash reserves and get at least Shs12 billion to contain the deadly Avian Influenza epidemic in the country, a ministry official has revealed.
Dr Noeline Nantima, the assistant commissioner Animals Disease Control Programme at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the pursuit to contain further spread of the virus is estimated to cost Shs2b per month.
Dr Nantima led a technical committee that reinforced the surveillance team in Masaka District on Wednesday.
“The epidemic may take us an average of six months to contain, implying that the total figure will go up to about Shs12b, provided the infection does not spread to the parts of the country,” she said, adding: “This figure will cater for only operational expenses, so it can be an underestimate.”

Dr Nantima, who addressed the district multi-task force planning meeting for the preparedness and control of infections outbreak, said the required funds would facilitate disaster response operations that include sensitisation.
Masaka, Kalangala and Wakiso districts are currently under surveillance after they were reported to be under attack by a rare strain of a highly contagious bird flu virus that is spreading in different birds’ species.

Dr Nantima said the surveillance teams in the field have enough technical capacities that can ably help contain the outbreak, adding that they anticipated the disaster breakout since 2006 which made them prepare in advance.
“We first had a scare in 2005 when the outbreak spread from Egypt to the neighbouring Sudan, so we knew it could strike us anytime too. So we started developing material, training response teams and had already written our response plans, so we know what it takes to fight this disease,” she added. The surveillance team has been reinforced by other international partners including, World Health Organisation, Food and Agricultural Organisation, Centre for Diseases Control, Red Cross among others.

Dr Nantima also said one the ministry’s considered best preventive approach is to kill all birds in the virus hit areas, saying they are currently in negotiations with the Office of the Prime Minister to discuss modalities of compensating farmers who are yet to be affected.
She said apparently, the government does not have a compensation policy to cater for people whose animals are deliberately killed during such disasters.
However, the Animal Diseases Act, Statutory Instrument 38-4; allows veterinarians to kill animals if they find it necessary action.

The virus type
The Ministry of Agriculture also clarified on type of Avian Influenza virus detected in the tested samples, disputing reports of H5NI virus type as reflected by Ministry of Health’s Monday press statement. Dr Nantima said no compositions of the highly pathogenic ‘N’ elements were found in the samples tested so far. She said by implication, the ‘N’ element means the virus has potential to attack humans, a condition that has not been approved yet. The Ministry is waiting for results from samples sent to Italian laboratories to test for the N elements, expected next week.
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