Monday, January 28, 2008

Bird flu spreads in 9 more districts

BDR put on alert to check illegal poultry entry

Since the outbreak of bird flu in nine more districts in the country this month, 41,620 poultry were culled so far, while the government beefed up its awareness raising campaign and tightened the bio-security measures in border areas.

At a news briefing in Bangladesh Secretariat in the capital yesterday Special Assistant to Chief Adviser Manik Lal Samaddar, who is in charge of the fisheries and livestock ministry, said there are 11 points in the border areas where disinfectant is being sprayed regularly to contain the spread of the H5N1virus.

Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) was directed to check illegal entry of poultry and eggs from India as in West Bengal the outbreak is currently at a severe level, he added.

The already infected farms in the country are under continuous monitoring and the city corporations were directed to improve their waste management to contain the spread of the virus, Manik Lal said.

Some 3,26,844 chickens were culled since March 2007 while the country has around 21 crore poultry. A total of 93 farms were infected in 84 upazilas and six metropolitan cities, government sources confirmed.

Asking the people not to panic, government officials said they should be more aware of the disease and should take cautionary measures like refraining from buying sick chickens or other sick fowls, washing their hands properly with detergent after touching fowls and eggs, and putting a stop to mixed fowls farming as ducks are sometimes the carriers of the virus, spreading it to other fowls.

Although no human being has been infected with bird flu virus yet, the government is nonetheless prepared to face any such infection, said the officials.

Samples from 803 patients in 12 hospitals across the country were tested recently, but no H5N1virus was found in them, they said.

Director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Mahmudur Rahman said a bird flu ward has been set up in the National Institute of Diseases of Chest and Hospital (NIDC&H). A laboratory has also been set up to diagnose infected persons.

"Sequestration facilities have been prepared in 64 districts to treat infected persons in isolation. Civil surgeons also have been trained in treatment of bird flu and the government has already procured adequate amount of antiviral, masks, and gloves as part of its beefed up security measures," he said.

Last year avian influenza (AI) had been confirmed in 68 poultry farms in 20 districts, following which some 2,85,224 poultry including free range poultry like ducks, pigeons and other domestic birds were culled.

This year the first outbreak of bird flu was recorded at Kurigram on January 3. Later the outbreak was recorded at Savar, Bonosree, Moulvibazar, Barisal, Barguna, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Natore, Narayanganj and in some other districts.

A presentation on bird flu was made at a cabinet meeting yesterday informing it the situation is not very alarming. The meeting was also informed about government measures to check the spread of avian influenza.

The chief adviser asked the authorities concerned to follow the measures that had been adopted by preceding governments to check such outbreaks. He also asked the authorities to take further steps to raise awareness among the people about the pestilence.

Our Rajshahi correspondent reported that the authorities concerned were put on highest alert in the entire division following an outbreak of bird flu there affecting 13 out of 16 districts in the northern region so far, posing threats to some 10,000 farms.

The district administration and border security forces were asked to strictly prevent entry of Indian poultry, a practice that is reportedly quite rampant despite a ban on poultry import, said officials adding that out of 124 upazilas in 11 districts, 35 are near the border.

The authorities were also directed to stop transportation of poultry from the affected districts after veterinarians and scientists had claimed that infected birds could have been smuggled out of the districts.

The steps were taken after Manik Lal Samaddar, special assistant to the chief adviser on livestock affairs, had rushed to the north following the outbreak on a two-day visit to the affected farms in Natore and Rajshahi, where he talked to farm owners and officials till Saturday.

All poultry within a kilometre radius of the 18 infected farms in Rajshahi were culled.

Owners of poultry farms there who had already been hit hard by high prices of poultry feeds, are feeling distressed following the outbreak of bird flu.

"Prices of farm chickens already fell on the market due to shoppers' reluctance to buy poultry following the outbreak of bird flu. Now I am looking at a loss, because I had to spend Tk 2,000 more than usual to feed the chickens," said Mofizur Rahman Swapan, owner of Bird Corner Farm in Rajshahi.

Our Correspondent from Netrakona reported that the district livestock officer (DLO) and the district administration admitted that there has been an outbreak of bird flu.

After a confirmed report of the outbreak in Ananda Bazar area, the DLO and district administration culled 2,500 ducks and chickens of a farm and of different households in the town on Saturday night.

In Dinajpur, at least 1,304 free range fowls including 109 ducks were culled, and 377 eggs were destroyed on Saturday night in Biral upazila.

Some 17,381 fowls were culled in Dinajpur since bird flu had been first detected there in March last year, according to district livestock officials.

Our Nilphamari correspondent reported that around 4,000 poultry were culled in Jaldhaka upazila there.

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