Kenya and Rwandan authorities have banned poultry products from neighbouring Uganda, where a virulent H5 strain of avian flu has broken out.
In Kenya the agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett told a Press Conference that the government had banned the importation of poultry and poultry products “with immediate effect.”
In Rwanda, the government announced that it had blocked poultry imports.
“Rwanda has put in place measures to prevent the disease. We have temporarily halted the import of poultry and poultry products,” said Christine Kanyandekwe from the country’s agricultural department.
She said Rwanda imports 50 000 day-old chicks and 100 tons of eggs from Uganda per month.
Last Sunday, Uganda’s agriculture ministry announced that it had detected avian flu among migratory birds, saying that it had since spread to a few domestic birds.
In both areas where it was detected the birds tested positive for “the highly pathogenic avian influenza that affects both humans and animals and which causes a high number of deaths in both species”, the ministry said.
Uganda’s acting commissioner in charge of animal health Dr Anna Ademun said the strain was “confirmed to the level of H5.”
Uganda has some 40 million chickens, according to agricultural statistics.
In Kenya, the director of veterinary services Dr Kisa Juma said this was a stopgap measure to prevent possible importation of the disease to Kenya.
Dr Juma advised Kenyans living near the Ugandan border not to eat wild birds or touch dead chicken or animals. “They should report such deaths and unusual behaviour in chickens to the nearest veterinary authorities,” he said.
Millions of birds have been culled in Europe and Asia to stop the spread of the H5N1 strain, which can be transmitted to humans. It is responsible for the deaths of several hundred people since 2003.
On Sunday Uganda said the disease was brought by migratory birds from Europe. Agriculture minister Christopher Kibazanga said fishermen witnessed mass deaths of wild birds on the nLutembe beach on the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe and in Masaka district, about 120km west of Kampala.
Last year, 51 countries declared the outbreak of one of the virulent H5 and H7 strains of bird flu, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.
In Kenya, Mr Bett sent a spine-chilling warning to the millions of poultry farmers that the country may have to kill all the 32 million chicken in its farms should the disease cross the border and start spreading in Kenya.
“We remain at high risk and in most cases the proper response is to kill all birds, which means the disease can destroy a whole poultry industry,” the minister said even as he maintained that Kenya remained free of the contagious flu.
Mr Bett urged the Kenyan public to report any cases of unusual poultry and wild bird deaths in their locality to the nearest veterinary and or public health authorities to help arrest the situation that now threatens to devastate the multi-billion shilling industry.
Kenya is a major importer of poultry products from Uganda, which took in at least 33,700 kilogrammes of poultry meat worth Sh7 million imported from Uganda last year.
East Africa’s largest economy also took in 120,000 kilogrammes of eggs worth Sh12 million from its neighbour, according to data from the Agriculture ministry.