Culling of nearly 50,000 birds is in progress in two districts of Kerala after the confirmation of avian flu in the state. There’s no cause for alarm and the situation is expected to be brought under control in three days, a top official said.
Dr KM Dileep, director of the state’s animal husbandry department, said the H5N8 subtype of the Influenza A virus was confirmed in five out of the eight samples sent for testing to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases lab in Bhopal. The flu was reported among ducks in four panchayats in Alappuzha district – Thalavadi, Thakazhy, Pallipad and Karuvatta — and one panchayat in Kottayam district – Neendoor. Poultry farmers had called animal husbandry officials after ducks began to die on a large scale in farms in these areas in the last week of December.
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“Rapid response teams have started functioning in five epicentres of the outbreak. Culling of birds within a one-km radius of the farms have begun and we intend to complete the process within three days. Sanitisation of the area will follow. I have just returned from Alappuzha and so far, the flu has not spread to other farms from the ones where it was confirmed. If we can complete the culling process fast, we can quickly contain it,” said Dr Dileep.
“After the culling ends, officials of the health and animal husbandry departments will carry out a combined surveillance of a 10-km radius of the affected areas to study any variations. We will check for suspicious deaths of any kind of birds in that period and send samples for examination if required.”
On the possibility of bird-to-human transmission of the virus, he said, “So far, we don’t have any reports of such transmission and there’s no need for alarm.”
The source of infection is possibly migratory birds who have flown to the state in large numbers in the last two months, he said.
The avian flu outbreak has been classified as a ‘state disaster’ after the Centre notified the outbreak of H5N8 subset of Influenza A in the two districts. This will help farmers get adequate compensation for the ducks that died of the virus in the initial phase as well as for those which will get culled in the process. State officials are taking a count of the number of ducks to be culled in order to prepare the data for compensation to farmers.
Since the state is already in the throes of the Covid-19 outbreak, officials carrying out the cullying process will wear PPE kits, masks and safety gloves. The birds are likely to be incinerated and the remains buried in deep pits to prevent any risk of transmission.