PR – Grenada’s acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles, says health surveillance officers at the Ministry of Health are keeping abreast with increasing reports of Avian influenza or Bird-flu (influenza A H5N1) on the global level.
Dr. Charles says the risk to Grenada is considered significantly low, since the current global data indicate that the increase in reported cases of Avian influenza was mainly in animals. He confirmed that his office has been proactive and has held discussions with the Chief Veterinary Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, regarding the need to increase vigilance for unexplained deaths of wild birds and poultry globally.
The CMO indicated that a mechanism for testing at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) or the United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being explored if there is suspicion of a case.
Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious viral disease that spreads mainly among birds. In rare cases, it can affect humans. There are many different strains of bird-flu virus. Most of them do not infect humans, but four strains have caused concern in recent years. These are H5N1 (since 1997), H7N9 (since 2013), H5N6 (since 2014), and H5N8 (since 2016).
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Religious Affairs is reassuring the public that given the very low risk posed for Avian influenza at this time, there is no need for panic. The Ministry also advises poultry farmers and owners of pet birds to be aware of the situation.
Citizens are also reminded and encouraged to avoid contact with sick or dead birds and poultry and continue to practice good hygiene which includes frequent hand washing, and sanitisation. These measures remain very effective against the spread of viral illnesses like influenza. At-risk individuals are also asked to get vaccinated with the seasonal influenza vaccines which are available at public health clinics at no cost.