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Bird Flu: Bangladesh Situation Serious, Indian on High Alert

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned against the bird flu situation in Bangladesh and said it is "serious". The country needs a long term strategy to control the deadly H5N1 strain, the FAO said.

Though no cases of human infection have been reported in Bangladesh, some 157,000 chickens have been culled and 1.5 million eggs destroyed as the virus spread to 11 out of 64 districts since the first outbreak, announced in March.

"Bangladesh has a real chance to get the virus under control, if it commits itself to a full-scale comprehensive national control campaign," FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said in a statement.

"In response to recent outbreaks in Bangladesh, the Government and veterinary authorities have applied immediate control and containment measures in affected areas," Domenech noted.

But he also stressed there was an urgent need for vigorously stepping up and extending current H5N1 control campaigns.

The potential spread of the H5N1 virus throughout the market chain, for example, through the collection of eggs and distribution of day-old chicks and feed, should be investigated, Domenech stressed. He recommended culling of birds in the affected areas in Bangladesh to prevent the disease from spreading. The movement of people, animals and goods in affected areas has to be strictly controlled and basic bio-security measures (disinfection, protective clothing, etc.) applied.

Targeted vaccination to stop the virus spread and improving the capacity of veterinary laboratories to facilitate rapid diagnosis of suspected outbreaks were the other measures suggested the FAO official.

Bangladesh has about 220 million chickens and 37 million ducks. Five million people are directly employed by the poultry industry, millions of households rely on poultry production for income generation and nutrition, FAO said.

In dia on high alert

Surrounded by bird flu-affected countries, both on the western and eastern borders, India is on high alert, officials said in New Delhi. "India has intensified its surveillance along the borders particularly after bird flu outbreak in Bangladesh, Myanmar and its continuation in China, Pakistan and Afghanistan," Central Animal Husbandry and Dairying Department Joint Secretary Upma Chawdhry revealed.

On August 11 last year India had declared itself to be bird flu-free and continues to be so, asserted Ms. Chawdhry. India continues with the ban on livestock and livestock products as bird flu infection rages through parts of the world including the United States, Europe and South Asia. The ban comes into force "automatically" once avian influenza is reported from any country.

Last year India successfully contained the disease that had struck parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh mostly in backyard poultry. The infection was believed to have been transmitted through migratory birds. Recently the Government denied reports of occurrence of the disease after poultry mortality was reported in a district each in Kerala and West Bengal.

"We have not let down our guard and surveillance and emphasise the need to move quickly and contain the infection at the level of the animal, if it were to occur," Chawdhry added.


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