Kenyan authorities Wednesday announced a ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products from Uganda, where an outbreak of avian flu was reported Sunday.
The Agriculture ministry in Nairobi also cancelled all permits that had already been issued for the import of poultry in a bid to safeguard the 32 million chicken in the country.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that surveillance and rapid response teams had been deployed to points of entry and common border counties of Busia, Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia, Turkana, West Pokot, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori.
Mr Bett however said that the country was prepared to tackle the disease, adding that the Multi-Disciplinary National Taskforce formed in 2005 when there was an outbreak of the disease in other parts of the world had been activated and was on high alert.
“There is already enhanced surveillance by the rapid response teams on other areas of risk, which include wild bird landing spots (water masses), live-bird markets and slaughter premises,” Mr Bett said.
Mr Bett said the government had also asked the Ugandan Veterinary Authorities not to issue any export permits for poultry and poultry products destined to Kenya in line with the Animal Diseases Act and Meat Control Act.
Cases of the Highly Pathologic Avian Influenza (HPAI) were reported in wild ducks and birds at a beach on the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe in Masaka and Wakiso districts, Uganda.
Mr Bett said all agencies directly concerned with either surveillance, prevention, control or management of the disease, both at the official border points and within borders, had been alerted.
They include the police, the Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), Kenya Wildlife Services, and the Ministry of Education.
The chief research officer at Kemri, Prof Njenga Kariuki, said he was confident that Kenya had the right strategies in place to handle any outbreak or infestation from Uganda.
But he cautioned that the virus might not be the H5N1 strain as reported in the media as the only fact that is confirmed is that the virus is in the same family as that caused the avian flu scare in Asia in 2005.
Citing previous studies from his career that spans over three decades — 11 in Uganda — Prof Njenga said that migratory birds are the natural reservoirs of the virus, but will transmit it to poultry who will then give it to man.
He said East Africans are vulnerable because of the close way they relate to animals.
“People, for instance, share houses with chicken,” he said.