Bird Flu: Kerala Begins Culling, But Contaminated Surroundings Remain A Worry

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Bird Flu: Kerala Begins Culling, But Contaminated Surroundings Remain A Worry

The virus has killed nearly 16,000 infected ducks in Kerala.


Alappuzha:  Masked men can be seen working diligently in Alappuzha - their one one and only task is to cull lakhs of ducks. The ducks in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts were the first in Kerala to be hit by bird flu's infectious H5N1 virus strain.

But as these masked men carry on their work, standing and watching them from the sidelines are many unmasked local residents. They watch the culling and burning from within the alert zone despite warnings by the district administration.

One such resident is Vijay, a farmer. He says, "It is the channels that are creating fear. What happens to others will happen to us. We are used to raising ducks and every year ducks die here.

Dr Hari Kumar, a veteran surgeon and part of the culling team says, "People have been told that they should not come in proximity of these areas, especially in the alert areas without adequate protection."

The H5N1 strain of virus is pandemic and contagious to human beings. According to the World Health Organisation, while millions of fowls have died due to the Avian Influenza, only 393 human deaths have been recorded globally between 2003-2013.

According to experts, the first step to avoid any human infection is to control the virus in animals.

More than 400 squads in Kerala have been deployed for the culling operations. The first phase will target ducks in affected areas and the second phase would include all fowls within the 1 km radius.

Sale and consumption of ducks and eggs in the affected areas is banned and is under close scrutiny

Despite awareness efforts by government health workers, the primary threat to humans is through physical contact with infected birds. According to field workers, contaminated surroundings remain a challenge, with dead ducks lying strewn in several paddy fields and unaccounted breeding.

District Collector of Alappuzha N Padmakumar says, "2000 health workers have been visiting homes in this district to talk to people and spread awareness. Medicines and separate wards in hospitals are ready for emergency of any untoward situation. We are doing our best and everything is under control. There is nothing to worry about."

While meat and eggs if cooked well are not hazardous, the administration has advised people to refrain from its consumption.

"We are scared. We have eggs at home but we are not eating it after this bird flu. Not even any meat," says Sunita, a homemaker.



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