Bird Flu Outbreak Alarms Poultry Industry

November 2, 2012,

By Debiprasad Nayak and Biman Mukherji

Bird Flu
Bird Flu

India declared itself free of bird flu late last year. But the recent outbreak of the virus at a government facility in the southern state of Karnataka has raised worries this could cause significant damage to the poultry industry.

Laboratory tests on samples of chicken and turkey blood and droppings carried out last week revealed they contained the H5N1 virus, which affects multiple internal organs and can lead to death.

The samples were collected at Bangalore’s Central Poultry Development Organisation, a government body that breeds birds and that provides training and other support to local farmers.

Arvinda Ramachandra Jannu, a senior official in the animal husbandry department in Karnataka, said there is no evidence to suggest that the disease had spread elsewhere. The virus was not found in tests on other samples collected near the facility.

“The state government culled all the affected birds,” said Mr. Jannu, “there is no need to panic.” The local government has already disposed of at least 33,000 birds, mostly chicken, found in and around the facility. They also got rid of around 12,000 eggs.

Bird flu affects mainly birds like chickens and turkeys but can be passed on to animals like pigs as well as to humans. The latest outbreak has not affected any humans, state officials said.

Indian exporters could incur heavy losses because of the latest cases of bird flu. The main markets for Indian eggs are the Middle East and Africa. According to industry estimates, India exports about 2.5 billion-3 billion rupees ($46 million-$55 million) worth of eggs annually to countries in these regions.

“Some countries in the Middle East immediately ban imports of eggs, if there is a slight outbreak of bird flu in India, even if it doesn’t spread into major producing areas,” said Satish Pal, the president of India’s main association of poultry producers.

According to media reports, the state of Kerala has imposed a ban on poultry products from neighboring Karnataka.

Not all think the industry will necessary suffer from the incident. D. Sudhakar, the head of an association of poultry producers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, argues that the government acted promptly to isolate the disease.

“Exports would be affected only if government declares the entire area affected by bird flu area,” he said.

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