ALAPPUZHA: The Kerala Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) has taken steps to cull ducks on a large scale after the avian influenza virus strain was identified on the ones that were found dead in the Kuttanad region last week.
Kerala Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju, on Monday, said the presence of bird flu virus was found in the samples taken from Kuttanad last week. The samples, which were examined at the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal, found the presence of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza, he said.
More than 25,000 ducks died due to the disease in the region last week at Nedumudi, Pallippad, Thakazhi and Karuvatta, and Neendoor in Kottayam district. After the mass death, the AHD officials collected the samples of dead ducks and examined them at the State Institute for Animal Disease in Thiruvananthapuram and Avian Diagnostic Laboratory Manjadi in Thiruvalla.
After the officials could not confirm the presence of the bird flu virus, the samples were later sent to Bhopal for more examination, where the virus strain was identified. “The birds including ducks, chicken and other birds which are reared in the one km radius of the infected area will be culled. A control room was opened at the collectorates in Alappuzha and Kottayam to coordinate the culling and prevention operations,” said Minister Raju.
The virus strain of H5N8 was identified in the state now and it is not too dangerous, said AHD district officer Santhoshkumar T K. There is a possibility that the birds can spread the disease to humans, and later from humans to humans, which is dangerous.
The H5N5 strain of the virus, which is considered more dangerous, was earlier identified in Kerala in 2014, he said. "In comparison, the H5N8 is less pathogenic. The department opened a control room and special rapid response team (RRT) to cull the birds in the regions,” said Santhosh.
The official said the virus could have entered this part of the region through migratory birds. Birds from other countries arrive in the region in November and December. "The waterlogging in Kuttanad and presence of salinity will increase the spread of the virus," he said.
The department dispatched around eight samples from different places and the presence of the virus was found in four samples taken from Nedumudi, Pallippad, Karuvatta and Thakazhi in Alappuzha, according to the officers.
The health department also began taking steps to identify persons infected with the virus in the region. Many farmers are engaged in duck and chicken rearing in the Alappuzha and Kottayam regions.