FAO probes outbreak of tilapia virus in Lake Victoria

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has set up a committee to investigate the reported outbreak of the Tilapia Lake Virus in Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Tilapia Lake Virus is a deadly disease that threatens fish stocks, both farmed and wild.

Jacob Olwo, programme officer of Fisheries and Aquaculture at FAO Uganda, told reporters the committee comprised experts from Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana.

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Mr Olwo said the committee was formed to investigate reports by some scientists that the disease had broken out in some countries in Africa.

He said the committee, which comprised scientists from FAO, Kampala-based Makerere University and ministry of agriculture, would investigate reports that the disease had already reached Lake Victoria.

Draw plans

Olwo said the team would find out whether there was an outbreak in Lake Victoria and also draw plans on how the disease would be tackled if the outbreak was confirmed.

“We need to have an action plan for any emergency of such nature. This can only be implemented when you have a surveillance plan. The surveillance, which we are going to have for Uganda, is to ensure that monitoring is being done in key farms when such an emergency occurs,” he said. He said the virus could only attack tilapia and not human beings.

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Olwo said some countries in Asia such as Thailand and the Philippines had experienced the wrath of the virus.

Tilapia is one of the major fish species consumed in Uganda.

The fishing industry, according to FAO, contributes 12 per cent of Uganda’s agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and supplies 50 per cent of animal proteins consumed in the east African country.

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Lake VictoriatilapiaFood and Agriculture Organisation