Kerala poultry farmers urge State Government to research bird flu outbreaks patterns

The administration in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram district on January 9 culled some 3,000 birds in the villages of Chirayinkeezhu and Azhoor as a preventive measure against cases of bird flu being reported.
A private poultry farm in Chirayinkeezhu panchayat had reported suspected bird flu infections on January 5 and the animal husbandry department was alerted. “Bird flu has been reported in the rural areas of Chirayinkeezhu and Azhoor. The health department has issued directives and is taking precautions to limit the spread of infection,” said health minister Veena George.
Last October, over 20,000 ducks were culled after the Haripad municipal ward and Payippad panchayat in Alapuzzha district reported cases of Avian flu. The alert was sounded after 2,500 ducks were found dead in paddy fields in Haripad. The samples were sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal, where tests confirmed Avian flu.
This time, the health department has again issued directives for people to avoid contact with hen, quail, goose and other ornamental birds in the infected areas to minimise the risk of infection. The revenue and health departments and local bodies will jointly ensure that the restrictions imposed are implemented.
Animal husbandry minister J. Chinchu Rani said the affected poultry farmers would be compensated but a larger worry loomed over the state. “We are concerned about the repeated bouts of bird flu in various parts of Kerala,” Chinchu Rani told.
Bird flu, or Avian flu, rarely causes infection among humans. Most of the human cases have been from the H7N9 and H5N1 strains. Migratory birds that visit Kerala and its backwaters in droves from September to December every year are suspected to be the cause of the outbreaks. Migratory birds visit the state’s wetlands in droves, especially Kuttanad, known for duck farming.
Kerala has an estimated 400,000 poultry farmers. The poultry industry has been hit by five outbreaks of bird flu in the past six months. The rural economy has been most affected since mostly poor farmers are invested in poultry. “Panic has gripped Thiruvananthapuram after the bird flu alerts and our sales have hit rock bottom. Nobody wants to buy chicken or poultry items,” said Lawrence Michael, a poultry farmer in Chirayinkeezhu.
Michael urged the animal husbandry department to conduct studies on the frequent outbreaks and educate poultry farmers about avoiding transmission of infection. “We need a mechanism to save the poultry industry in Kerala. Instead, the state government is adopting the culling strategy whenever an outbreak is reported,” he rued.
Source: India Today