The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) has announced new measures intended to prevent outbreak of avian influenza in poultry, commonly known as bird flu in the country.
According to a statement from the ministry, the measures include a temporary ban on import of chicken and other poultry products from countries where the disease has been identified such as Uganda and inspection of birds in forests and parks.
The measures are being put in place following the outbreak of the disease in the neighbouring country, in areas like Entebbe and Masaka, according to reports.
The viral disease had earlier been confirmed in some of European countries such as Hungary, Germany, France and Denmark, among others.
“The importation of chicken and poultry products (eggs and meat) from Uganda or any European country where this disease has been identified is temporally suspended,” reads part of the statement signed by Agriculture minister Geraldine Mukeshimana.
The established symptoms of the disease, according to the statement, include head and neck and esophagus swelling (inflammation), complicated breathing, cough and diarrhoea.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), public health services of England, Scotland and Wales, within days of symptoms appearing, potentially fatal complications such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple organ failure may develop.
Prompt treatment with antiviral medication may help prevent complications and reduce the risk of death, NHS states.
Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s Agriculture minister, was quoted in the media confirming that specimens taken from white-winged tern birds that died recently in Wakiso district in central Uganda tested positive for avian influenza.
The World Health Organisation says avian influenza viruses are highly contagious, extremely variable viruses that are widespread in birds.
Wild birds in aquatic habitats are thought to be their natural reservoir hosts, but domesticated poultry are readily infected.
MINAGRI has requested organs in charge of security, customs, migration and immigration at borders, and park and lake wardens and local government to implement and monitor these measures so that the disease does not spread to Rwanda.
The head of animal resources at Rwanda Agriculture Board, Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, told The New Times that the virus is very dynamic and that its vaccine needs gradual research like after every six months to ensure efficacy.
Kanyandekwe noted that all the customs agents have a copy of the statement issued by MINAGRI and that a meeting was held on Monday bringing together officials from several ministries at borders so that they implement the instructions.
Monitoring wild birds
However, a complex issue is how to control the influx of wild infected birds from the neighbouring country or other countries into Rwanda’s forests or national parks.
The head of wildlife veterinary unit at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Dr Tony Mudakikwa, said they will train their workers mainly in Akagera National Park on monitoring the wild bird flock.
“Because the viral disease has already been confirmed in Uganda, it can easily reach the lakes and Akagera,” he said.
“We are going to carry out training for our workers on how they can do reporting system, and how they can carry out early detection and preventive measures and monitoring so as to control the virus.”