New York: The UN has praised the “swift and comprehensive” measures taken by India to bring under control the “worst-ever” outbreak of bird flu in West Bengal, while urging the country to maintain vigilance in view of similar incidents reported in its neighbourhood.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s veterinary expert Mohinder Oberoi said intensive culling in the predominantly backyard poultry sector of West Bengal appears to have stopped the disease in its tracks.
Oberoi made the comment after a recent field trip to the affected areas, where no new outbreaks have been reported since 2 February.
FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech, however, urged the country to maintain intensive surveillance in high-risk areas as the possibility of new occurrences remains high.
“The virus could still be present in the environment despite heavy slaughtering and extensive disinfection of affected areas, or it could be reintroduced from other countries,” he said.
The FAO officials praised the national and state governments’ political and financial commitment to stamp out the disease.
They said public awareness campaigns, a strong command chain from districts to villages, compensation payments and an effective collaboration between animal and human health departments at field level have been the key factors for the success.
To achieve rapid control, prevent the spread of the virus to other states and to avoid the risk of human infection, the Indian Government had to cull over 3.9 million chickens and ducks, mainly belonging to poor backyard poultry farmers, the FAO said.
“Public awareness campaigns should continue over the next months introducing rural communities to safe poultry production and basic bio-security measures with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of human infections,” the agency said.
In addition, it recommended that the socio-economic impact of the control campaign be urgently assessed to better define and apply measures to mitigate the impact of massive culling on poor small holders.
Live bird markets, migration of wild birds and transportation routes of birds and poultry products should be mapped to better understand and control the spread of the disease, it said.
The FAO has invited India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to discuss how to better coordinate regional avian influenza campaigns.
The Nepalese government has agreed to host the meeting which will be held in collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health, FAO said but did not announce any date.