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The Financial Express

Dispelling bird flu fears

| Updated: January 26, 2021 22:26:59


Dispelling bird flu fears

After a considerably long gap, a potential outbreak of bird flu appears to be casting shadows across. The virus is borne by poultry and poultry products. Following a January 13 FE report on the detection and spread of bird flu in 10 Indian states, the relevant ministry didn't waste time before swinging into action. On being ascertained of the scourge's possible impact on the poultry sector in Bangladesh, the ministry has asked the country's Department of Livestock Services to take all necessary steps to contain the flu virus. According to another FE report on January 20, the fisheries and livestock ministry has asked the department concerned to take precautions in all districts, especially those near the border. As part of their task, the department must ensure all-out monitoring of the poultry farms.

Bangladesh has seen varying degrees of the outbreak of bird flu (H5N8), also called avian influenza, several times in the past. Although humans normally do not contract the virus, consumption of the diseased meat, eggs etc lead to different types of health complications. Of late two strains of the avian flu --- H5N1 and H7N9, have been found to be highly lethal for humans. Normally, handling of the poultry birds, their feed and droppings poses health risks to humans. Given these aspects of bird flu, the remedy which has been recognised globally is the culling of the infected poultry birds in farms. Of the now-11 Indian states affected by bird flu, the worst affected has been Maharashtra. The other ten states are also far from the Bangladesh-India borders. But inter-state transportation of poultry in India carries the prospect of their being landed in a state bordering Bangladesh. Here lies a great risk for this country. A distressing fact is migratory birds also fall prey to avian flu infections. These birds carry the H5N1 virus which can spread among the local poultry birds.

It is encouraging to note that the authorities in charge of the poultry industry haven't wasted time in taking preparations to cope with the birds' infection. The poultry sector in Bangladesh has drawn lots of the country's youths to a profitable business entrepreneurship. Over the last three decades, poultry farms have become ubiquitous in every corner of the country. Years ago during the disease's outbreak, farm owners had to cull hundreds of infected birds. It resulted in great financial losses for many entrepreneurs. This year the news about a bird flu outbreak couldn't have come at a worse time. The poultry sector is presently found wobbling to stay in business amid the corona pandemic.

It's a relief to learn that Bangladesh imports a negligible amount of poultry products from India. The fear lies with the smuggling syndicates in the border areas. These elements remain engaged in smuggling three-day-old chicks. Poultry farm owners fear this practice might prompt the spread of bird flu in the border areas before engulfing larger swathes of the land. In preparation of preventing the flu, steps like collection and test of dead or sickly fowl at local labs, supply of test kits and PPEs are an imperative. So are awareness campaigns for poultry farms.   

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