Ghana reports its first H5N1 outbreak

May 2, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – News services today reported the confirmation of H5N1 avian influenza on a chicken farm in Ghana, apparently making it the ninth African country to be hit by the virus.

Agriculture Minister Ernest Debrah said the outbreak was discovered Apr 24 on a farm near the port city of Tema, east of the capital, Accra, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

Dr. Harry Opata, a World Health Organization (WHO) disease prevention officer, said the outbreak was confirmed by a veterinary lab in Accra and by the US Navy lab in Cairo, Egypt, according to a Reuters report. He said about 100 chickens had died each day for the past 3 or 4 days.

Debrah said about 1,700 birds have been destroyed to stop the outbreak, AFP reported.

Assuming today's reports are verified, Ghana will join eight other African countries that are facing or have faced H5N1 outbreaks in birds: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan. Human cases have occurred in Egypt (34), Djibouti (1), and Nigeria (1).

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) currently lists 57 countries that have had H5N1 outbreaks in birds in recent years. The OIE has not yet added Ghana to its list of affected countries.

In other developments, the H5N1 virus was reported on four more chicken farms in Bangladesh today, according to a separate AFP report.

A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said 8,500 chickens had been culled on a government-run farm and on three other farms in the southwestern district of Jessore, AFP reported. All the chickens were in a 1-square-kilometer area.

Bangladesh identified its first H5N1 outbreak in late March on a farm near the capital, Dhaka, the story noted. The latest culling raised the number of birds killed to control the disease to 70,000.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's health minister insisted today that her country will not share any H5N1 virus samples with the WHO until it has a written guarantee that the samples will not be shared with drug companies without Indonesia's permission, according to another AFP report.

Indonesia stopped sending H5N1 samples to the WHO about 4 months ago out of concern that drug companies would use them to make vaccines that would be priced out of Indonesians' reach.

At a meeting in late March, Indonesia agreed to resume sharing samples in return for a WHO promise not to turn samples over to drug companies without Indonesia's permission. But the country has not yet resumed sending samples.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said today that the WHO made oral promises, but Indonesia wants them in writing, AFP reported. Supari said Indonesia would now await the outcome of the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of WHO member countries, scheduled in Geneva later this month.

"Diplomatically, the guarantees have been made, but we want it in black over white, in writing," Supari told AFP.

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