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Home > India > News > Report

A formula to control bird flu

Surinder Sud in New Delhi | February 02, 2008 04:29 IST

Concerned over the unabated spread of the dreaded H5N1 (bird flu) virus, a working group of the poultry industry has suggested 'ring vaccination' and compensation hikes for the culled birds as part of the strategy to contain the menace in West Bengal itself.

There would, otherwise, be a high risk of the virus crossing the state boundaries to Jharkhand, Bihar and other parts of the country, the industry think tank has warned.

The bird flu containment strategy, prepared by the working group headed by former Poultry Federation of India chief Shashi Kapur, has been submitted to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar [Images] and animal husbandry department secretary Pradeep Kumar.

Ring vaccination will involve preventive vaccination of all poultry and ducks, including backyard birds, in a belt around the areas where the infection has already taken root.

"Ring vaccination is the same as fighting fire when the adjoining areas are doused with water or foam to prevent the fire from spreading," explained Kapur.

The strategy also stipulates prompt and higher payment of compensation for the culled birds, broadly citing two reasons: firstly, the low compensation is forcing people to smuggle birds to outside the culling zones; secondly, the keepers of backyard birds, who are among the poorest of the poor, can ill-afford the income loss due to culling and the subsequent mandatory three-month de-populated phase.

The group has suggested enhancing compensation for the less than 10-week old chicken from the present Rs 10 to Rs 20 per bird and for older chicken from Rs 40 to Rs 80.

Similarly, the compensation for the below 10-week old ducks has been suggested to be fixed at Rs 20 and for older ducks at Rs 100 per bird.

The additional total pay-out cost of the raised compensation has been worked out at Rs 9 crore, if around 24 lakh birds are culled. Even if the number of birds to be culled goes up to 40 lakh, the additional cost would be no more than Rs 15 crore.

The total compensation cost for 40 lakh birds would be around Rs 61.74 crore, which would benefit some 30 lakh poor people, according to the group.

Kapur said the situation in West Bengal was similar to Vietnam which has reported the maximum number of human deaths due to H5N1 virus infection.

The density of backyard poultry birds and ducks is almost similar in both these regions (between 384 and 463 poultry birds and 184 ducks per sq km). But the density of human population is much higher in India (901 persons per sq km) than Vietnam (254 persons per sq km). This makes India more vulnerable than even Vietnam in some respects.

Vietnam, too, had tried to control H5N1 virus through stamping and culling but did not succeed for over a year. It subsequently resorted to 100 per cent vaccination which sharply brought down the number of disease outbreaks among the poultry. Besides, there has been no death of any human being since then, Kapur pointed out.

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