Bird flu: poultry industry to be blamed?


Animal husbandry officials confided that the poultry industry has had a free run. They do not report infections or death in birds.

Poultry carrying avian influenza does not scare inhabitants of Thorrur village as much as apathy of the wealthy poultry industry, which sat on mysterious deaths of birds that began about a month ago.

The existence of avian influenza caused by H5N1 virus came to light only on Monday after a laboratory in Bhopal found it in 11 samples collected from Srinivas Reddy farm in Thoroor, Hayatnagar mandal of Ranga Reddy district.

Telangana government immediately swung into action and ordered culling of 1.45 lakh birds within one kilometre of the farm. Nearly 52,000 birds were put to death and 9,000 eggs destroyed by Wednesday evening. The culling operations are expected to conclude by Thursday. Locals of Thorrur allege birds have been dying for some time now and poultry farmers conveniently dumped the carcasses in streams, poisoning waterholes and the groundwater.

The gram panchayat does not pull up the industry given its clout, leaving residents to contend with foul air and water. “Dogs feed on dead poultry and thrive. If they don’t get diseased, they grow in numbers only to become a threat to humans. Our streams that run to agricultural lands and the ground water that we use is polluted,” charged Shagga Elaiah, a real estate agent.

He also mentioned a farm worker falling sick from handling birds in the recent past but both district medical and animal husbandry authorities maintained there were no cases of human infection of avian influenza. Less than a kilometre away from his residence is a parched water body where several dead birds washed into, after Tuesday’s rains.

Residents believe the birds were killed after catching the virus. Meanwhile, farmers from surrounding poultry farms, who sought to convince animal husbandry officials to not cull their birds, admitted that birds in their farms fell sick and died two weeks ago. Animal husbandry officials confided that the poultry industry has had a free run. “They do not report infections or death in birds. The government becomes involved only when we have to clean the mess,” a senior official said.

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