Bird Flu Scare Hits Kerala's Famed 'Duck Capital'

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Bird Flu Scare Hits Kerala's Famed 'Duck Capital'

Men culling birds in Kerala to prevent spread of the virus strain


Alappuzha:  The discovery of bird flu's highly infectious H5N1 virus strain in the southern state of Kerala has affected Alappuzha, its famed backwater tourist destination, the most.

Known as a duck capital and famous for its houseboats, Alappuzha's domestic tourism market has been rocked by the culling of lakhs of ducks. Just one houseboat association witnessed 21 cancellations in two days, a most worrying situation at the peak of the season.

"We have stopped serving meat. It's only fish now but they are scared. One house boat owner lost 7 bookings yesterday. It's going to get worse," said Josekutty Joseph, president of Kerala House Boat Owner's Association.

Several eating joints have declined to serve duck and chicken delicacies in the immediate impact of the flu.

"Business will be hit. We are already facing cancellations. There is a severe negative response from customers, even though we are not serving duck and chicken dishes. It's just the beginning, we are expecting worse," said Aarvind, manager, of 'Brothers', a hotel popular for its duck roasts.

"It is not just the duck farmers, it is also the ancillary industry which will be hit in this economy. Ducks rearing and paddy cultivation are the primary source of income in this duck capital. The bird flu scare is going to take a toll on many economically," said KG Padmakumar, an environmentalist.

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.

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