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India sounds bird flu alert as migration season begins

India Wednesday sounded a bird flu alert in all states as the season of migratory birds begins with the onset of winter.//

"We have given clear instruction to all our states to be on vigil. The alert will be in place till February next year," said Upma Chawdhry, joint secretary, department of animal husbandry.

"The three states - Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh - where the disease surfaced in February this year have been instructed to send their monitoring teams to poultry farms," Chawdhry said in a conference on "Challenges for the Indian Poultry Sector - Post Avian Influenza".

She said 30 sectors in 18 'talukas', sub districts, in the three states had been affected by the disease. "In samples taken from Navapur (Maharashtra), experts found that migratory birds were behind the spread of the diseases," the official said in the conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Now, as the virus has resurfaced in a number of countries, including Thailand, the government is on its toes to deal with the menace.

The first confirmed avian flu case in India, now free from the disease, was reported in Navapur in Maharashtra on Feb 18.

According to Chawdhry, more than one million chicken were culled and Rs.30.6 million given to farmers as compensation during the drive.

She urged commercial poultry farm owners to maintain hygiene to effectively deal with the problem.

"Since 60 percent of poultry products are from commercial farms, the private sector must keep their farms clean. From our earlier experience, we have seen that they have failed to do that," she added.

Four regional laboratories in the country will be ready in a year's time to deal with the situation, Chowdhry said.

Added H.K. Pradhan, joint director of the Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal: "India needs to improve its capacity in terms of emergency arrangements to dea l with avian influenza. We have only one high quality laboratory for either testing samples or developing vaccines. This must be increased."

India's poultry industry produces 1,800 million kg of meat every year and 42 billion eggs. It provides employment to nearly three million people.


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