The Kerala government on Thursday sounded a high alert in Alapuzha district after the state animal husbandry department confirmed bird flu (H5N1) influenza) in some samples sent to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Disease in Bhopal.
Many ducks and local birds perished in the district last week, forcing authorities to rush samples to the Bhopal lab. A total of 140 samples were sent for test and 26 samples tested positive for bird flu.
Veterinary officials said the culling of ducks would start in affected areas on Friday, and farmers will be compensated according to the government norms. “The government has instructed the district collector to take necessary measures,” said animal husbandry minister J Cinchu Rani in the state capital.
Endowed with many backwaters and water bodies, farmers rear a duck in a big way in the district, which results in cases of bird flu regularly. Birds from other countries are reportedly the carriers of the virus. In Alapuzha and neighbouring Kottayam, duck rearing is an important business, and there is high demand for eggs and meat of the water bird, generally priced higher than poultry.
Last year, too, the district reported the viral outbreak, but it was localized and contained. In 2016, at least 500,000 chickens and ducks were culled in Alapuzha and Pathanamthitta districts to control the outbreak.
Bird flu, also known as Avian Flu, is a variety of influenza caused by an airborne virus in birds. It can spread to humans in rare conditions, and if it happens, it can trigger a person to person transmission, experts said. There are many variants of the virus and H7N9 is considered the dangerous among them, they added. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are many subtypes of the avian influenza virus, and only some of them will be dangerous to humans.