ALAPPUZHA/KOTTAYAM: It’s official. Avian flu killed the ducks in Kuttanad last week. An examination of the brain of the dead ducks at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, confirmed the worst fears of the farmers. The disease has claimed more than 20,000 ducks in Upper Kuttanad area.
Alappuzha District Collector N Padmakumar said the culling of pet birds in various places would begin on Tuesday. He said the Animal Husbandry Department collected samples from various parts of Kuttanad and they tested positive from Nedumudi, Champakulam, Purakkad, Thakazhi and Mullackal.
All pet birds, including duck and chicken, will be culled with the help of the police. The relief to farmers will be finalised at a meeting of Chief Minister, Padmakumar said. Only birds in one km radius of the cases which tested positive will be killed on Tuesday. The situation in other areas will be evaluated in the coming days and more steps initiated.
The Health Department has started initiatives to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Animal Husbandry Department(AHD) had initially concluded that the reason for deaths was due to viral infection as it is a common phenomenon in the Kuttanad region during September-November. About 15,000 ducks of K P Kuttappan, Vezhapurath house, Thalavadi South, had died in a paddy field.
Animal Husbandry Department district officer Lissy P Scaria said the department has started initiatives to prevent the spread of the disease. The department has started distribution of veterinary kits in Kuttanad region, she said.
Over 1,000 farmers are engaged in duck farming in the area. According to an approximate estimate by the Animal Husbandry Department, there are moe than five lakh ducks in the region.
Farmers who had begun duck farming with an eye on the Christmas-New Year market are crestfallen. Krishnankutty, a farmer from Thakazhi, said a six-month-old duck will fetch `200 to 250 in the open market. “I had reared about 1,500 ducks and was expecting around `3 lakh.’’
The Kottayam District Animal Husbandry Department confirmed around 600 plus bird flu deaths in Aymanam, Kumarakom and Thalayazham panchayats. Unofficial reports said the death toll has crossed 10,000 in the district.
Reports said the flu has already spread to Vechoor and Arpookkara panchayats. As many as 4,000 ducks, bred at Kallathukari paddy fields in Aymanam panchayat by farmers Raghu of Vayalil house, Parip, and Ajayan of Kareemadathil, died. A total of 6,000 ducks bred by farmers Kunjumon and Madanan in Vechoor panchayat too have been reported dead. Meanwhile, a senior official in the department said only the deaths of 500 ducks in Aymanam, 100 broiler chickens in Kumarakom and a negligible amount of ducks in Thalayazham have been confirmed due to bird flu.
The Kottayam district administration has decided to open a control room as part of preventive measures. District Collector Ajit Kumar has said the sale of chicken and ducks and its transportation in the five panchayats, where bird flu has been reported, has been banned. He also assigned Additional District Magistrate (ADM) T V Subhash to coordinate various activities.
A rapid action force, led by the revenue divisional officer and consisting of tahsildars (Kottayam and Vaikom), district Â- Block- grama panchayat representatives, panchayat secretaries, village officers, police sub inspectors and veterinary doctors with the Animal Husbandry Department, have been formed to carry out urgent measures to control the spread of the disease. District Police Superintendent, Excise officer and Regional Transport officer have been directed to carry strict checkings to prevent the transportation of the birds.
The disease is widespread in areas like Thalavadi, Vattakayal, Kainakary, Ponga and Purakkad in Alappuzha district and Aymanam in Kottayam district. It is estimated that around two lakh ducks are being grown in these areas.