GHANA’S VETERINARY Service is putting health officials on high alert after antibodies of a virus, known as Nipah virus, was detected in parts of Africa.
Wildlife veterinary specialist, Dr Richard Suu-Ire, indicates the disease is predicted to potentially cause the next world pandemic.
“We’ve proved beyond doubt this virus is now in Africa. So our medical colleagues should have this in mind that when there is an outbreak of unknown disease, it can only not be Ebola virus disease but can also be Nipah virus disease,” he warned.
Dr Suu-Ire made the revelation at a forum on ‘One World, One Health, One Medicine’ by the Ghana Veterinary Medical Students Association in Kumasi.
Dr Richard Suu-Ire said the virus was first detected in 1998 in the Malaysian forest of Kampung Sungai Nipah, from which it got its name.
Fruit bats are reservoir carriers of Nipah virus and other highly fatal viruses including Ebola virus. Large numbers were later spotted around orchards at pig farms in northwest Malaysia.
Nipah virus was found in the saliva of bats in half-eaten fruit dropped and consumed by the pigs.
During the outbreak in Malaysia over one million pigs were killed, 800 pig farms were demolished and 36,000 farmers lost their jobs. Humans have, in recent times, been battling with diseases of animal origin.
In 2014, West Africa experienced the worst case of Ebola outbreak. Avian flu claimed lives of thousands of poultry in Ghana about two years ago. The disease continues to claim human life in the West African sub-region
‘One World, One Health, One Medicine’ concept seeks to create awareness on the link between animal diseases and public health.
Professor Raphael Folitse, Dean of School of Veterinary Medicine at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, wants Ghana to go beyond collaboration on ‘One health’ to strengthen one health systems to curb the situation.
“Many parts of the world are far, far ahead. For those of us in West Africa, we’re still behind,” he said.