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Threat on tilapia in Lake Victoria as deadly virus is detected :: Kenya



Scientists have confirmed a threat to tilapia fish in Lake Victoria as Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) is detected in Uganda.


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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that the virus has been detected by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing method in both farmed and wild tilapia from Lake Victoria part of Uganda.

The results reveal that there is no difference in prevalence between the farmed and wild fish sample in the sample that was tested.

Speaking at a FAO organized a workshop in Kisumu, the officer in charge Aquaculture FAO, Melba Reantaso said the training is focusing on a better understanding of the disease that has been affecting Tilapia species in Asia and a few counties in Africa

The Virus which was first detected in Israel in 2009 led to massive tilapia deaths (1,000s dead fish per day) from TiLV outbreaks in the Valley of Bet She’an, Israel.

A warning by FAO later appeared in a special alert issued by FAO May 26.  But was only confirmed as a new disease in 2014. Cases have since been reported in other parts of the world.

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Melda said Thailand, Israel, Malaysia, Philippines, and Peru have confirmed reports but the status of other countries are still being debated upon, some have scientific reports yet some countries have not reported it officially.

“We have received reports from other stakeholders and producers that the virus has been suspected in their countries, we are yet to confirm the reports,” said Melba.

A researcher in fish diseases and health at  Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) based in Kisumu Caleb Ogwai said due to the threat the department is establishing a fish health department to look at the fish diseases in the rivers, lake, and dams in the Kenyan part of Lake Victoria.


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Ogwai explained that the lake is deteriorating due to pressure from population increase and effluents reducing water quality so the water quality is reducing water quality hence microbial take advantage of the situation become pathogenic and develop diseases in fish.

“In Kenya part of the lake we have not encountered the virus, but in Uganda, they have spotted the virus given that we are in one system we expect to be ready for it when it invades,”Ogwai said.

Ogwai said after the 10 days’ workshop the researchers will develop the national action plan on how to tackle the virus.

“We will develop surveillance system, that we will monitor the lake, rivers, and dams so that in the event of the problem coming up we will be able to tackle it,” said Ogwai.

 Currently the scientist report that the virus has no human health risk but has a large potential impact on global food security and nutrition.

“While the pathogen poses no public health concern, it can decimate infected populations,” said Melba.

Melba revealed that there is unexplained mortality In several countries but the cause has not been systematically diagnosed whether it’s as a result of TiLV or another bacteria or a disease.


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 “So far we don’t have any report or evidence that it has human health impact but the threat is on the production of Tilapia which is one of the most important cultured species and affordable to many people,” she explained.

The workshop participants from Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Egypt, Italy, and the US will have a better understanding of the disease from the lectures, laboratory, field work and emergency preparedness in the event that an outbreak.

She explained that they will later develop a national action plan on TiLV so that the countries have technical knowledge of what it is and provided with guidance on what to do and how to carry out an active surveillance For TiLV.

“The surveillance will help them understand the state of TiLV in those countries whether it’s present or not and if present what are the risk factors as to why it is happening in their countries.

She said through surveillance we will be able to find ways to minimize the risk of TiLV weather through prevention, limiting the movement of the infected species or host or policy level by security measures.

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