India is to be commended for its successful efforts to control
the recent worst-ever outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza
in the state of West Bengal, FAO said today. The agency warned,
however, that intensive surveillance should continue in high-risk
areas as the possibility of new outbreaks remains high.
“Intensive culling in the predominantly backyard poultry
sector appears to have stopped the disease in its tracks,” said
FAO veterinary expert Mohinder Oberoi after a recent field trip
to the affected areas.
“The political and financial commitment from the government
of India and the state of Bengal to stamp out the disease was instrumental
in this success. 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,” Oberoi
No new disease outbreaks have been discovered since 2 February
FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech urged to
maintain intensive surveillance in high risk areas as the possibility
of new outbreaks 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.
In order to achieve rapid control, prevent virus spread to other
states and to avoid the risk of human infection the government
of India had to cull over 3.9 million chickens and ducks, mainly
belonging to poor backyard poultry farmers.
The socio-economic impact of this control campaign should be urgently
assessed in order to better define and apply the necessary mitigation
measures regarding the negative impacts of massive culling on poor
small holders, FAO said. 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.
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 recent outbreak of avian influenza in West Bengal, and the
ongoing spread of the disease in Bangladesh require close collaboration
between affected countries, FAO said. FAO, in collaboration with
the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), has invited India,
Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to participate in a regional
meeting to better coordinate avian influenza control campaigns.
The Government of Nepal has agreed to host the meeting in Kathmandu.
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