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Culling of birds continue as poultry sales plummet

Officials have stepped up efforts to identify and examine poultry workers in the affected region.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 14:12 IST

Sales of poultry products dropped sharply as authorities in Maharashtra on Monday continued with the exercise of culling thousands of chickens in the region that reported the first confirmed case of bird flu.

Officials also stepped up efforts to identify and examine poultry workers in the Navapur village of Nandurbar district, some 300 km away from the state capital, in an effort to fight the global disease.

"The culling process is continuing satisfactorily and is likely to be completed over the next couple of days," TP Doke, Maharashtra's director of health services, said over the phone from Navapur.

"We are constantly monitoring the condition of seven people who have been admitted in a local hospital here with mild fever. There is no cause for any alarm yet," he added.

The Navapur hospital has been strengthened with the addition of a 15-bed isolation ward and four ventilators. Two anaesthetists and four clinicians have also been added to its regular staff.

Doke said two relatives of a poultry farm owner from Nandurbar district, who died Friday in a hospital at Surat in Gujarat, had been admitted in an isolated ward of a hospital as a precautionary measure. In Delhi, officials said investigations had confirmed that Ganeshbhai Rameshbhai Sonar had not been infected by bird flu.

Reacting to reports that poultry traders in the affected region have protested the move to cull thousands of birds, Doke said initially a "small section of them" were opposed to the idea but were now cooperating with the authorities.

Meanwhile, sale of poultry products, mainly chickens, in major state markets like Mumbai witnessed a sharp plunge as cautious buyers preferred to stay away due to bird flu scare.

In Mumbai's crowded Crawford market, poultry traders said their average sales had plummeted by 40 to 60 per cent.

"Customers are getting scared by the media reports. We are really worried about the future if this situation continues for long," said Fateh Khan, a small trader.

"Although there is no possibility of the chickens sold here being infected since we get it from a different region, very few customers want to take a chance and buy chickens now," he added.

The poultry trader blamed the central and state governments for not doing enough to allay the fears in the mind of the consumers after India's first confirmed case of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza was reported.

Known to spread to human beings, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has so far resulted in nearly 100 human casualties across Southeast Asia, mostly in Vietnam. It has been reported in seven countries.

India is the world's sixth largest producer of eggs and the fifth largest producer of broiler chickens. It produced 43 billion eggs and 1.7 billion broilers in 2005, according to industry estimates.

"Multinational vaccine manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, eager to sell their anti-flu drugs in India, are trying to project it as a case of bird flu," alleged National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) in a public notice.

"The government and the industry should strongly resist such attempts." The committee appealed to people not to panic and continue to consume eggs and chicken as they were doing earlier.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 11:31 IST