Gargi Parsai

Situation in Bangladesh is serious, says FAO

  • The disease has spread to 11 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh
  • Culling recommended to prevent bird flu from spreading

    NEW DELHI: Surrounded by bird flu affected countries, both on the western and the eastern borders, India is on high alert against the deadly H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

    "India has intensified its surveillance along the borders particularly after bird flu outbreak in Bangladesh, Myanmar and its continuation in China, Pakistan and Afghanistan," Joint Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Upma Chawdhry told The Hindu here on Monday.

    However, on August 11, 2006, 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 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 in 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 surveillance and emphasise the need to move quickly and contain infection at the level of the animal, if it were to occur," she said.

    Warning

    On Monday, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned against the bird flu situation in Bangladesh and said it was "serious". The country will have to engage in a long-term strategic campaign against the spreading H5N1 virus.

    The first officially announced avian influenza outbreak in Bangladesh occurred in February. Since then the virus has spread to 11 out of 64 districts. "In response to recent outbreaks in Bangladesh, the government and veterinary authorities have applied immediate control measures in affected areas," said Joseph Domenech, FAO's chief veterinary officer. "There is an urgent need for vigorously stepping up and extending current H5N1 control campaigns in Bangladesh to prevent the virus from becoming widely entrenched," FAO warned.

    The UN agency has suggested that the potential spread of the virus throughout the market chain, for example, through the collection of eggs and distribution of day-old chicks and feed, should be investigated.

    It has also recommended culling of birds in the affected areas in Bangladesh. The movement of people, animals and goods in affected areas has to be strictly controlled.