Culling of poultry in one-km radius of avian influenza-affected region in Central Kerala had a slow start on Wednesday even as the government said chances of the virus affecting humans were remote.
Four panchayats in paddy-growing Kuttanad region, which is the main stay of backwater tourism, have been hit by the H5 strain of avian influenza. Although government had announced that two lakh ducks and chickens would have to be culled to contain the outbreak, only 500-odd ducks could be culled on Wednesday against the target of 2 lakh. So far, 20000 ducks had perished due to avian influenza.
Alappuzha district collector N Padmakumar said the personal protective equipment for the health and animal husbandry workers reached only in the afternoon, leading to the delay in culling. Besides, the first priority was to destroy the dead ducks. As many as 2,000 health workers were ready for the culling operation, which would gain momentum on Thursday, he said.
The collector said many duck farmers have herded their birds out of the district to escape from the culling operation. “They were rearing the birds expecting good returns in the coming Christmas and New Year season. As the news about culling came, many of them took the birds outside the district,’’ said the collector.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the situation was under control and the lab reports suggested that the virus would not affect humans. However, as a precautionary measure an alert in 10 km radius from the affected areas have been sounded. There is enough stock of medicines and 1000 kits of personal protective equipment would be brought for squad members working in the region. All steps in this regard have been taken as per the international protocol, he said.
The government also increased the compensation for duck farmers. Accordingly, a duckling would be given Rs 100 and adult ones Rs 200 as compensation. The other day, farmers were resisting against culling of the birds mainly for want of enough compensation. Many of them were not convinced about the gravity of the situation.