Reluctance of airlines to ship samples delays testing

Airlines, barring Air India, have stopped transporting samples sighting the cargo being infectious

Updated - November 04, 2022 09:33 am IST

Published - November 02, 2022 08:06 pm IST - ALAPPUZHA

A farmer guides his ducks through the Pampa river at SN Kadavu near Karuvatta.

A farmer guides his ducks through the Pampa river at SN Kadavu near Karuvatta. | Photo Credit: Suresh Alleppey

Avian flu outbreaks are hitting Kuttanad with frightening regularity, yet the detection of the disease is far from swift.

At present, suspected samples are initially tested at the Avian Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Thiruvalla. On testing positive for bird flu, further samples are airlifted to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, for confirmation.

However, it is turning out to be a tedious task as airlines, barring Air India, have stopped transporting samples citing that the cargo is infectious. It is resulting in an excessive delay in declaring an outbreak of the disease and tackling its spread.

“The Central government has the sole authority to declare an outbreak of bird flu. They do so based on confirmation from the NIHSAD. We cannot do much about it,” says an official of the Animal Husbandry department.

After ducks started to fall ill and die at Vazhuthanam on October 19, it took a week to get confirmation from the NIHSAD. Authorities sent samples from Cheruthana, another place where duck deaths have been reported since last week, to Bhopal only on Wednesday due to “logistical issues”.

According to experts, “rapid detection and accurate identification of low pathogenic avian influenza and highly pathogenic avian influenza are critical to early and successful control”.

The need of the hour is to set up a biosafety level-3 lab in the State, which could help early detection of the disease and save money spent on transporting the samples far away. The farmers have also called for the introduction of an insurance scheme.

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