Panel suggests curbs on poultry farms in Kerala's Avian Flu epicentres till March 2025

The panel recommended a ban on the transportation of poultry to and from the areas where the disease has spread till March 2025.
The farms in the infected areas will not be allowed to re-stock poultry during the ban period.
The farms in the infected areas will not be allowed to re-stock poultry during the ban period. Photo | Express

KOCHI: The expert committee formed by the state animal husbandry department to study the recent outbreak of avian influenza in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts has reported that the source of the virus could be migratory birds.

The panel recommended a ban on the transportation of poultry to and from the areas where the disease has spread till March 2025. The hatcheries in the infected areas should be shut down till March 2025. Poultry, meat, egg and bird droppings should not be transported from the infected areas to other parts of the state. The farms in the infected areas will not be allowed to re-stock poultry during the ban period. Minister for Animal Husbandry J Chinchurani said the government will take a decision on implementing the recommendations after studying the practical issues.

The panel included scientists from the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, experts from the State Institute for Animal Diseases and the Avian Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Tiruvalla. According to the AHD, there are 37 epicentres of avian influenza in the state of which 29 are in Alappuzha, five in Kottayam and three in Pathanamthitta. As many as 34,851 birds have died of the disease and 1,70,911 birds were culled till July 5. Besides 39,462 eggs and 90.6 tonnes of feed were destroyed to contain the spread.

Following the mass deaths of the birds, the AHD sent the samples of the dead birds to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Disease, Bhopal, for analyses, which tested positive for avian influenza.

The infection was first reported on April 14, 2024, and the panel observed that the virus would have spread to others areas through sale and transportation of infected birds. The carcass, feed and droppings of the birds that died due to the infection in the beginning were not properly destroyed, which would have led to the spread of the disease to wild birds.

The supervisors of broiler integration farms in Thannermukkom and Cherthala had been visiting various farms on a daily basis for distribution of medicine and vaccination.

This could have led to the spread of the disease to the farms. The authorities at the integrated farms failed to inform the veterinary hospitals about the spread of the disease at the appropriate time which led to further spread. Though the farms had been bringing one-day-old foul from hatcheries outside the state, these birds were not infected. The disease spread in the local poultry farms. The expert committee felt that the virus could have spread to ducks reared in the paddy fields of Kuttanad from wild birds or migratory birds. The report stressed the need for genetic analysis of the disease-causing virus strains to understand the source and periodical outbreaks.

The panel recommended to testing samples from all poultry farms in the state every three months. In Kuttanad, samples should be collected every month till March 2025. The carcass of the birds should be destroyed properly to avoid spread of infection to wild birds. The farm owners should immediately report bird deaths due to infection. The government should make registration of private farms at veterinary hospitals mandatory. Steps should be taken to monitor the arrival of migratory birds in Kuttanad.

The panel suggested collecting the bird samples with the help of Bombay Natural History Society, NGOs and with the permission of the forest department. No farm should be allowed to rear over 5,000 ducks. Steps should be taken to conduct bio security auditing in all farms every four months, it said.

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