Farmers begin culling in Kerala's worst hit districts

Farmers begin culling in Kerala's worst hit districts

Amid concerns over avian influenza (bird flu) spreading to more areas in Kerala, duck-rearing farmers on Wednesday took the lead in mass culling in the affected regions of Alappuzha and Kottayam districts.

In Purakkad in Alappuzha district – where thousands of dead ducks were dumped on the fields – local panchayat and farmers, along with Health Department officials, began mass burning of the dead birds.

Later, members of an action force appointed by the Animal Husbandry Department commenced mass culling and burning of the affected birds.

Similar culling drives were also initiated in Kottayam district. At least four panchayats each in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts have been identified as flu-hit areas. The flu has also been reported in neighbouring Pathanamthitta district.

Deaths of more than 20,000 ducks have been reported in the three affected districts. About 50 ducks brought from an affected region in Alappuzha district died in Kalady in Ernakulam district, prompting the Ernakulam district administration to initiate more stringent checks on movement of poultry.  Checks for prevalence of the flu have also commenced in Kollam district.

The state government on Wednesday increased the monetary compensation to farmers losing their birds to the virus.

Earlier, the government’s announcement of Rs 75 and Rs 100 as compensations for the two categories of birds was met with severe objections from the farmers.   “The virus doesn’t easily transmit to humans but instructions to be alert have been passed on,” Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters here.

 The chief minister said the state had adequate supplies of preventive medicines and protective gear for culling operations. Two experts from the Union Health Ministry visited affected regions in Alappuzha district on Wednesday.

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