Kenya and Rwanda have banned importation of live birds and poultry products from Uganda after a confirmed outbreak of Bird Flu on Sunday evening.
Kenya’s Chief Veterinary Officer Juma Ngeiywa said all public health and veterinary officers at Busia and Malaba border posts had been placed on high alert to ensure no imports of poultry products are allowed in until the situation in Entebbe 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.
Similarly, Rwanda’s Agriculture minister Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana said “importation of chicken and all poultry products (eggs and meat) from Uganda and countries in Europe where Bird Flu has been detected has been temporarily suspended.”
European countries affected by the ban include Hungary, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark.
The alerts follow a Uganda government announcement that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which infects both animals and humans, had been detected after tests on carcasses of white winged-black tern birds that died on the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe at Lutembe beach on January 2.
A second incident was confirmed on January 13 at Bukakata area within Masaka district, 75 kilometres from Kampala City, when carcasses of five domestic ducks and a hen tested positive to HPAI prompting re-activation of the National Task Force to co-ordinate the fight against Avian Flu.
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.
Uganda’s Agriculture, Industry and Fisheries minister Christopher Kibazanga confirmed the outbreak, saying measures had been taken to avert any further spread of the disease.
The Avian Flu could have been brought to Uganda by white winged black terns (migratory birds) that fly in from Europe during winter to breeding grounds on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Rwanda has also called its wildlife officers to be on high alert and closely monitor the situation.
“Security organs, customs, immigration, national parks and lakes-responsible institutions, as well as local leaders are encouraged to follow closely on the issue and ensure that the guidelines are implemented,” Dr Mukeshimana said.
According to Davidson Mugisha, the president of Rwanda Birding Association, the country is a common destination of migratory birds.
“We do receive migrant birds which stop over either passing through to the South or as ‘summer’ visitors. Main stopovers are Akagera National Park, Bugesera District, Mashyuza, Buhanga Forest and Rugezi, among others,” Mr Mugisha told The EastAfrican.
Poultry traders in Rwanda and Kenya have been sourcing eggs, hatched day-old chicks and poultry meat from Uganda earning handsome profits.
An egg seller at Kenya, Nakuru Wakulima Market, Benard Ngugi said that at least 6,000 crates of Ugandan eggs were offloaded at the market every week helping meet an egg shortage, which if not checked could cause a steep price hike.
According to available figures, Rwanda imports about 300,000 eggs from Uganda alone every week and about 150,000 day-old chicks every month from Uganda, Belgium and Holland.
The Ugandan government downplayed the outbreak, but instructed poultry keepers to confine their chicken to avoid any contact with wild birds that could lead to infections.
The statement added that any bird death should be promptly reported for analysis.
Prof Mbonye said no one should touch a dead bird with bare hands, but should report promptly to the authorities to facilitate further investigations.
The ban could also affect hawking of roasted poultry meat along the Kampala-Masaka highway, adversely affecting the livelihoods of about 300 traders.
Uganda has been enjoying a boom in commercial poultry production with several hatcheries and egg production companies established in various parts of the country.
Currently there are no statistics showing the poultry trade volumes between Kenya and Uganda.