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Bird flu: more attention should be paid to the prime sources of infection PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Bird flu menace is assuming catastrophic proportions in recent times. Going all out to prevent its spread on an emergency basis is the demand of the day. It may require multi-pronged action accompanied by popular awakening.

Unless the challenge is met with adequate response, not only will the poultry resource and poultry farmers face ruination and the economy will be hurt but portends of danger to public health will also be chilling. Visitation of the avian scourge is periodically reported and hens have to be culled by the thousand.

Only a few months ago 2,000 farms in 17 districts in central and southern regions of the country were found to be affected. More recently 20,000 hens and ducks had to be culled in four more districts but the menace was not contained. Bird flu is spreading very fast in neighboring West Bengal which is a further cause of worry. Whether migratory birds are the carriers may not have been conclusively established but the disease usually occurs during and after winter.

Although no human being in this country is reported to have been afflicted, good luck may not hold out indefinitely. This new health menace has so far claimed 95 or more lives in other Asian countries, mainly Indonesia and Vietnam. Experts have other fears. The disease-causing virus H5N1, like many other viruses, is apt to mutate after which it may find it easy to cross the biological barrier and infect humans in ever greater numbers.

And the worse fear is that it may mutate into a new human influenza virus against which humans have no immunity. Influenza is a common ailment, usually mild but it can become virulent and there are instances where an influenza pandemic killed millions across the world. However, gloomy forebodings should not make us nervous or induce panic.

The menace is a reality and the nation is challenged to put together all its capability and resources for defeating it through maximum preparedness. Import or smuggling in of not only poultry birds and eggs but feeds and all materials connected with poultry farms must be rigorously prevented and the border check posts must be kept in a state of full alert.

The government’s plan to start door-to-door surveillance as soon as possible to check the spread of bird flu is in order but the areas of operation should be prioritised in the interest of concentrated action. With the cooperation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) the government is going to appoint 150 veterinaries in the vulnerable upazilas.

The Dhaka City Corporation has prohibited mobile poultry vendors from selling their poultry birds round the city’s residential localities in a bid to control contamination. Such measures fall hard on the underprivileged sections and so should be continued only as long as strictly necessary. More attention should be paid to the prime sources of infection.

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