The government is set to fly samples taken from birds suspected to have been infected with influenza to Italy in a bid to get conclusive lab results of the viral infestation.

Initial testing done by the Noguchi Memorial Centre for Scientific Research confirmed the H5N1 virus infestation in 5 out of 6 bird samples taken from a poultry farm in Achimota and Tema.

But speaking to Joy News Head of Public Health at the Veterinary Services, Dr Bashiru Boi Kikimoto says his outfit will still need further testing in Italy.

"That result from Noguchi, we cannot send to [the Minister for Food and Agriculture] to announce the presence of the disease in the country because the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have a reference laboratory in Dova in Italy. It is only that result, when it comes, then our Minister can now go on air and say we have avian influenza", Dr Kikimoto said.

The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Already, there are moves to avert a transmission of the deadly virus to the public.

Farmers who handled the sick birds in Accra and Tema have already been tested.

Dr Kikimoto, however, asked the public to be cautious.

"If any bird dies on the farm, they [the public] should take it as a suspected case and bring it for veterinary testing", he advised.

Meanwhile, a National Technical Committee has been activated to contain the outbreak of the bird flu and will comprise officials from the Ministry of Health, leaders in the poultry industry and officials from the National Disaster Mangement Organisation (NADMO).

Government has therefore advised farmers to watch out for sick birds on their farms.

Symptoms of infected birds include ruffled feathers, soft-shelled eggs, depression and droopiness, sudden drop in egg production, sudden death and nasal discharges.

The virus for now is from bird to bird but will pose danger to humans if careless handling of infected birds transmits the deadly disease.