A poultry farm being sanitised in Barwala, Panchkula, on Wednesday. The poultry belt here is considered second largest in Asia, producing 1 crore eggs daily at around 110 farms.(Sant Arora/HT)
A poultry farm being sanitised in Barwala, Panchkula, on Wednesday. The poultry belt here is considered second largest in Asia, producing 1 crore eggs daily at around 110 farms.(Sant Arora/HT)

Amid uncertainty over bird flu, Centre rushes rapid response team to Haryana’s Barwala

Report of cause of mass bird deaths delayed due to poor samples, team from Jalandhar collects fresh ones, results expected on Friday.
Hindustan Times, Panchkula | By Tanbir Dhaliwal
UPDATED ON JAN 07, 2021 01:20 AM IST

Springing into action following the death of over 4.3 lakh poultry birds at Panchkula’s Barwala-Raipur Rani belt in the past 25 days, the central government has despatched a rapid response team, which will reach Panchkula district on Thursday.

Considered Asia’s second largest poultry belt with over 15,000 workers, Barwala and Raipur Rani have around 110 poultry farms, housing over 77 lakh poultry birds and producing 1 crore eggs daily.

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Meanwhile, the Panchkula health department also sent teams to the poultry farms for surveillance. “We have received directions from the central government to start active surveillance and declare an alert in the areas for symptoms of avian influenza,” said civil surgeon Dr Jasjeet Kaur.

“Four teams visited 69 farms and no influenza-like symptoms were reported in the workforce. A special team from Delhi will be arriving on Thursday,” she added.

Meanwhile, the poultry industry says they are taking precautions and that there has been no impact on their functioning and sales. “The casualties also include routine deaths of birds. There has been no impact on the business. The industry is fine,” said Darshan Kumar, president, Haryana Poultry Farmers’ Association.

Team from Jalandhar collects 57 samples

Speaking on the delay in results, Dr Mohinder Pal Singh, director, Regional Disease Diagnosis Laboratory, Jalandhar, said, “There was a delay in reporting the matter to us. Secondly, the four samples sent to us on January 3 were not of requisite quality, hence the reports were inconclusive.”

On January 5, Dr Singh sent a four-member team to Panchkula to collect fresh samples. “The team returned on Wednesday after collecting 57 samples of dead birds from 15 poultry farms. The report will be out by Friday,” he said.

What next

The director said if avian influenza was detected, bird culling will be conducted in the 1-km area around where it was found, and surveillance will be stepped up in the 10-km area.

Centre’s flip-flop

While avian influenza has been confirmed in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, apart from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala, mystery still surrounds the cause behind the mass bird deaths in Barwala belt.

Even as the reports are awaited, earlier in the day, the Union ministry of health and family welfare issued a press note confirming presence of bird flu in samples from dead birds in Panchkula, only to retract it later.

“There was some confusion. We are still awaiting reports from the Regional Disease Diagnosis Laboratory in Jalandhar and avian Influenza has not been confirmed yet,” said Dr Sukhdev Rathi, deputy director, Haryana animal husbandry and dairying department.

‘Cooked meat safe to eat’

Issuing an advisory, Haryana animal husbandry department said, “Poultry products can be cooked and consumed as usual with no fear of acquiring avian influenza virus, as it is sensitive to heat.”

It advised people not to touch bird’s excreta or dead birds with bare hands, adding that poultry farm workers should wear masks.

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There are many strains of the bird flu virus and most of them are mild and may only cause low egg production or other mild symptoms among birds. However, some are severe and cause deaths of large number of birds.

Generally, people coming in close contact with infected alive or dead birds contract the flu, and it does not usually spread from person to person, according to the World Health Organization, which also said that there is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and cooked poultry food.

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