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Maharashtra struggles with bird flu; over 209,606 poultry birds culled

Maharashtra has been struggling with bird flu or avian influenza since more than a month
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 09, 2021 12:30 AM IST

Maharashtra has been struggling with bird flu or avian influenza since more than a month. It has reported deaths of over 40,213 birds in the state since January 8 and has culled over 200,000 poultry birds following confirmation of bird flu from ICAR-National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, till date. The figures include around 137,305 poultry birds in Navapur tehsil of Nandurbar district in the last two days (Sunday and Monday).

On Monday, 105,305 poultry birds were culled at four farms in Navapur to contain the spread.

The culling process is started only after receiving a confirmation of bird flu from ICAR-NIHSAD – the central laboratory for bird flu testing. The culling is being done within a one-km radius of the poultry farm affected by the virus.

This is the second time the state is dealing with bird flu in the last 15 years. In 2006, it was limited to Navapur, which was the epicentre of the disease in the Nandurbar district, but this time, the scenario is different. The zoonotic disease has spread to 45 epicentres covering 20 districts across the state.

However, 41 epicentres have been issued sanitisation certificates, indicating they are free from the virus and consumption of poultry products has been allowed in these areas. These epicentres will continue to be monitored for the next three months, government officials said.

Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Parbhani, Latur, Nanded, Pune, Solapur, Beed, Ahmednagar, Yavatmal, Satara, Nagpur, Gadchiroli and Nandurbar are among the districts where bird flu deaths were confirmed by ICAR-NIHSAD. Apart from culling poultry birds, the state has also destroyed 44,686 eggs and 63,864kg of poultry from the infected zones.

On Monday, the state reported a total of 6,126 bird deaths. Of them, 6,119 poultry birds have been found dead in the state alongside numerous herons, sparrows and parrots. Their samples have been sent to ICAR-NIHSAD and the Western Region Disease Diagnosis Laboratory (WRDDL) Pune, for testing.

“Though it has spread to 20 districts, most of the areas where the outbreak was reported to have recorded no bird death in the last 20 days, which is a relief. It indicates that we have been able to control the virus in the respective areas,” said Sachindra Pratap Singh, state animal husbandry commissioner.

Bird flu had heavily impacted the poultry business, with sales plummeting. Vasanth Kumar Shetty, Maharashtra president, poultry farmers and breeders association said that the sale of chicken has reduced by around 25%, which has brought big losses to the industry. “This virus doesn’t transmit to humans but owing to all the misconceptions and rumours, many people have stopped consuming chicken. This has resulted in a loss of sales by around 25%. As per a rough estimation, the industry has suffered a loss of 75 crore to 80 crore in a month in the state,” said Shetty.

The state government has paid compensation of 340,600 to the poultry farmers in the infected zone, against culling of poultry birds and disposal of eggs and poultry feed.

Shetty said that the compensation offered by the state government is very nominal. “Culling of poultry birds means farmers are going out of business and their livelihood is gone for over a year, which needs to be considered while determining compensation amount. The government is not giving even the basic cost against culling one poultry bird,” he said.

Bird flu cases in Navapur

Navapur is in picture again after around 5,000 poultry birds were found dead in the tehsil yet were not reported to the local administration despite frequent appeals from the state government, considering rise in bird flu deaths. On Monday, the district administration culled around 105,305 poultry birds while on Sunday 31,400 poultry birds were culled. Samples from four poultry farms tested positive for bird flu on Saturday.

The state animal husbandry department said that it would have to cull approximately 150,000 poultry birds in the tehsil.

Navapur, which is known from layer poultry farming, has some 26 such poultry farms. The tehsildar had received a complaint that a poultry farm was concealing the deaths of its poultry birds, following which the local administration took action and a first information report (FIR) was registered against the farm owner. It FIR was lodged under the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animal Act, 2009, under which reporting unusual deaths in poultry birds is mandatory.

“The poultry owner was told by a local veterinary that the deaths are because of ‘ranikhet’ [a contagious disease that causes death in poultry birds]. The police are investigating the matter now,” said Shetty, who was in Navapur to review the situation.

The state government has set up 72 teams to complete the culling process in the area at the earliest.

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