With bird flu being confirmed in 10 states so far, the Centre on Monday urged state governments, including Delhi, not to shut poultry markets and restrict sales based on 'public perception', asserting that there are no scientific reports of transmission of bird flu to humans.
Currently, bird flu or avian influenza has been confirmed in 10 states -- Delhi, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.
Culling operations are on, Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Giriraj Singh told reporters.
A preventive vaccine for bird flu is available in the country, he added.
According to the ministry, the sale of poultry products has so far been restricted in five states -- Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
"An unnecessary panic has been created across the country which is not only affecting the poultry farmers but also consumers," Singh said.
There is no need to panic about bird flu as the viral infection spreads mostly in birds and there is no scientific report to confirm its human transmission so far, he added.
Expressing concern over the Delhi government closing the Ghazipur poultry market, the minister said: "If there is any technical or scientific reason, then only such decision should have been taken.
"This is affecting not only poultry farmers but also maize growers."
The Ghazipur poultry market, located on the border of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, is Asia's largest chicken market and a hub for exports.
Singh said a letter has been written to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urging him to reconsider his decision.
He added that similar letters would be sent to other states urging them to take a call on curbs based on 'scientific evidence' and not on 'public perception'.
The minister said the Delhi government would not have faced the current situation had it 'seriously' taken note of the central advisory on bird flu issued to all states in October 2020.
He also said the restriction on poultry sales and movement in four other states was also not required.
Currently, intra-state curbs on poultry products have been imposed in five districts of Himachal Pradesh and three districts of Haryana, while it has been restricted in entire Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand due to 'lack of information and scientific evidence', said O P Choudhary, joint secretary in the ministry.
Similarly in Delhi, inter-state movement of poultry products is allowed only with valid quality and health certificate of poultry birds, he added.
In Delhi, samples of ducks have been confirmed for bird flu and not poultry birds.
According to the minister, "It's a double whammy for poultry farmers and maize growers.
"Initially, coronavirus scare affected their business and now bird flu."
The wholesale prices of maize -- used as poultry feed -- have fallen sharply to Rs 1,200 per quintal from Rs 1,800 in the last three days alone, he said.
With demand taking a hit, prices of poultry products have declined sharply in both wholesale and retail markets across the country, he added.
Trying to quell consumers' fears about bird flu, the minister said, "There is no need to be scared. I urge consumers to eat after proper cooking at a particular temperature. Eggs are also safe to eat."
Bird flu is reported in India every year but there has not been a single report of human transmission, he said, but added that the central government is alert and taking measures to contain its spread in poultry farms.