Kenya has been put on high alert following an outbreak of the avian influenza commonly known as Bird Flu in neighbouring Uganda.

According to the Business Daily, Chief Veterinary Officer Juma Ngeiywa has directed all public health and veterinary officers at Busia and Malaba border posts to remain on high alert to ensure no imports of poultry products are allowed in until the situation in Uganda has normalised.

“Permits issued to chicks, eggs, poultry meat and breeding chicken importers will have to be reviewed to safeguard spread of Bird Flu to Kenya,” Dr Ngeiya said.

Kenyan poultry traders have been sourcing eggs, hatched day-old chicks and poultry meat from Uganda, earning huge profits as it is far much cheaper compared to Kenyan poultry products.

Kenya Poultry Farmers Association chairperson Muthoni Kariuki welcomed the ban, saying subsidies provided to Ugandan Poultry Farmers had given them undue advantage to make more profits than them in Kenya.

Vet warnings

The Kenya Veterinary Association has at the same timeurged the public not to touch or eat wild birds or other animals that are found dead following the outbreak of bird flu in Uganda along the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe.

In a statement, the Association’s National Chairman Samuel Kahariri indicated that any cases of mass bird deaths, animal, both domestic and wild must be promptly reported to the nearest veterinary authority.

He recommended that law enforcement agencies must be extra vigilant to curb the illegal movement of poultry and their products in Kenya.

“The National Government must come in strongly and put in a strong animal disease surveillance system particularly in the hot spots” he said.

He outlined further measures which include the procurement of the requisite protective clothing, disinfectants among other key equipment to avert possible infection and deaths of the veterinary doctors.

“The veterinary doctors and the poultry farming community must be extra vigilant to enhance early warning system,” he stated.

He indicated that county governments need to build their capacities to deal with the looming danger.

Confirmed cases

Uganda on Sunday said it had detected bird flu among migratory birds in two spots, one near Entebbe, on the banks of Lake Victoria, and another in the Masaka district about 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Kampala.

Five domestic ducks and a hen in Masaka were also infected, leading authorities to call for all poultry to be kept inside to avoid further contagion from migratory birds, a statement from the Ugandan Agriculture Ministry said.

In the statement, Christopher Kibazanga, Minister for agriculture, animals and fisheries, said local wildlife authorities on January 2 had reported the "mass death of wild birds, seen by fishermen at Lutembe beach at the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe".

Acting General Health Services Director in Uganda Anthony Mbonye, however, allayed fears of people contracting the Avian Flu, saying the probability of bird-to-human infection was low.

“Any infected person will show influenza-like symptoms-coughs, muscle-aches, headaches and diarrhoea. It can be mild, but also very lethal as it attacks the lungs and the kidneys,” he said.

Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses.

These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.

Avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred.