As avian influenza was confirmed as the cause of death of nearly 17,000 ducks in the state’s major paddy-growing Kuttanad region in Central Kerala, the government ordered for massive culling of the birds and other poultry in affected areas.
According to animal husbandry department, the avian influenza was confirmed following lab tests at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal. However, the department is yet to get reports about the sub-type of the virus to ascertain whether it would affect humans.
Kuttanad, spread over three districts, has a duck population of 6 lakhs. Deaths have been reported from two villages in the recent weeks. As per the decision, all poultry in one square kilometer from the affected villages would be culled immediately. Besides, the sale of duck has been banned in Kuttanad and Ambalapuzha taluks in Alappuzha.
Kerala Agriculture Minister K P Mohanan said preventive steps would be soon initiated to contain the disease. Veterinary kits would be distributed in affected areas and farmers would be enlightened about the threat, he said.
According to World Health Organisation, most avian influenza viruses do not affect humans. However, some are zoonotic, meaning that they can infect humans. The most well known example is the avian influenza subtype H5N1 viruses currently circulating in poultry in parts of Asia and northeast Africa, which have caused disease and deaths since 1997.
Other avian influenza subtypes, including H7N7 and H9N2, have also infected people. Some of these infections have been very severe and some have resulted in deaths, but many infections have been mild or even subclinical in humans.