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Avian influenza in Ghana: the H5N1 strain isolated shows no new introduction of the virus to Africa

Paris, 18 May 2007 - The analysis of the H5N1 avian influenza strain isolated from the outbreak occurring in Ghana clearly indicates that it is closely related to other isolates from Sub-Saharan African countries like Ivory Coast , Sudan , Burkina Faso and Nigeria and that it is less similar to the Asian strains currently isolated.

“The sequencing of the Ghana strain indicates that there is a similarity range between 98.8% and 99.6% to other isolates from Sub-Saharan African countries”, the Director general of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, said today. “That would indicate that there has been no introduction of a new virus strain to Ghana ”, he added.

The OIE continues to emphasise that surveillance supported by efficient Veterinary Services is crucial for the early detection of AI and for a rapid response to be carried out in order to prevent any further spread of the disease.

In addition, the organisation recalled that transparent sharing of virus samples for sequencing is key to track the least genetic evolution of the virus and trigger appropriate global response mechanisms.

Ghana authorities were quick to notify the OIE of the occurrence of the outbreak in their territory on the 12 May, samples were sent timely to the reference laboratory, and the sequencing of the virus was finalized by the OIE Reference Laboratory for avian influenza in Padua ( Italy ) on wednesday.