Bird flu: Culling begins in affected areas of Kerala

Bird flu: Culling begins in affected areas of Kerala

Bird flu: Culling begins in affected areas of Kerala

In order to contain the spread of bird flu, culling of ducks and chicken began today in the three affected districts of Kerala as per the protocol laid down by the World Health Organisation on tackling such situations as the government allayed fears of the virus spreading to human beings.

As per the assessment of the Animal Husbandry Department, over 1.5 lakh birds, mostly ducks, will have to destroyed in the coming days in the affected areas of Alappuzha, Kuttanad and Pathanamthitta districts.

Though authorities ruled out the possibility of H5 virus, found to be the cause of mass death of ducks, spreading to human beings, movement of poultry products from the affected areas has been banned and awareness drive stepped up in vulnerable places.

Wearing protective gear, members of the Rapid Action Team, mostly from the Animal Husbandry Department, collected hundreds of ducks, ill or dead, at Purakkad in Alappuzha and burnt them using heaps of logs doused with kerosene.

The culling would be taken up in the affected areas of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts soon, officials in the Animal Husbandry department said.

The state cabinet, which took stock of the situation, enhanced the compensation for farmers to Rs 100 and Rs 200 per bird of less than two months and above two months of growth, respectively, in view of the loss suffered by them.

Briefing media in the state capital, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government had taken all precautionary measures as per the protocol set by WHO and there was no need to panic, especially about the chances of it spreading to human beings.

"This disease is reported only in pockets of three districts. Though we are taking all necessary precautions there is no need to panic, especially about it causing a threat to human beings," Chandy said.

A three-member central team of experts, one of them from the National Centre for Disease Control, is also visiting affected areas to draw up a report on the situation.

The outbreak of the infection, which claimed over 15,000 ducks in water-logged Kuttanad and adjoining areas since last week, has inflicted a huge loss to poultry rearers, most of them medium and marginal farmers.

Located close to backwaters with vast swathes of water-logged paddy fields, duck rearing has been a supplementary activity for farmers in the area for generations.

Farmers and poultry owners, who fear that the disease would shatter the Christmas season market next month, yesterday staged a protest in Alappuzha decrying the amount offered by government as compensation.