India's control of bird flu commendable, vigilance needed: UN

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New York, Feb 28 (UNI) The recent outbreak of the bird flu influenza in West Bengal seems to be under control due to the swift and comprehensive measures taken by the authorities, though continued vigilance was crucial, the United Nations agricultural agency said today.

''Intensive culling in the predominantly backyard poultry sector appears to have stopped the disease in its tracks,'' Mohinder Oberoi, a veterinary expert of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said after a recent field trip to the affected areas, where no new outbreaks have been seen since February 2.

FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech, however, urged the country to maintain intensive surveillance in high-risk areas as the possibility of new occurrences remains high.

''The virus could still be present in the environment despite heavy slaughtering and extensive disinfection of affected areas, or it could be reintroduced from other countries,'' he said.

The FAO officials praised the national and state governments' political and financial commitment to stamp out the disease.

They said public awareness campaigns, a strong command chain from districts to villages, compensation payments and an effective collaboration between animal and human health departments at field level, have been the key factors for the success.

''Public awareness campaigns should continue over the next months introducing rural communities to safe poultry production and basic biosecurity measures with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of human infections,'' the agency said in a press release.

In addition, it recommended that the socio-economic impact of the control campaign be urgently assessed to better define and apply measures to mitigate the impact of massive culling on poor small holders. Live bird markets, migration of wild birds and transportation routes of birds and poultry products should be mapped to better understand and control the spread of the disease, it said.

UNI XC ARB KP1836 2

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