<i>Bird flu scare grips poultry farmers</i>
Fear of avian influenza, better known as bird flu, once again grips the poultry farmers in Chittagong after the highly contagious disease was reported at a poultry farm in coastal Banskhali upazila on January 15.
However, having sufficient precautionary measures the authorities concerned in the department of livestock duly assures them of not getting worried.
The officials at the district livestock office said testing facilities have already been developed at Chittagong Veterinary Hospital to detect bird flu virus within 12 hours and the veterinary hospital is now well equipped to check the disease.
Earlier, samples had to be sent to Regional Field Diseases Investigation Laboratory in Feni for bird flu test and then the test report to Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute at Savar in the capital for further confirmation. Thus, the whole process of confirming the presence of bird flu virus took 48 to 72 hours, they said.
Sources at the office said presence of bird flu virus in poultry at Sikder Poultry Farm of Mankirchair under Shilkup Union of Banshkhali could be confirmed within 12 hours after the birds developed abnormality.
It helped the authorities to cull and destroy 1,720 chickens and 2,748 eggs of the affected farm by the next day (January 16) to prevent spread of the disease.
Pijush Talukder, a technician at Chittagong District Veterinary Hospital Laboratory, said 61 tests have been done at their lab since the bird flu testing kits are available in November last year (2008). Of them, only one test showed positive on January 15.
District Livestock Officer (DLO) Mohammad Abu Taher Mridha has called for keeping alert at this time of the year when a lot of migratory birds, carrier of the virus, arrive in the country and the low temperature helps spread the virus.
“There is no alternative to creating awareness among the poultry farmers and mass people as well as ensuring bio-security of the farms to check bird flu and avert damage in poultry industry,” Mridha said.
“Besides, comparatively the scenario is quite different this year from the previous occasion,” he said, adding that they have been training up 60 poultry farmers in each upazila under a programme since the first week of December.
He said they have already completed training in Sitakunda, Hathazari, Raozan, Rangunia and Boalkhali of 14 upazilas in the district and Panchlaish zone of Chittagong metropolitan area.
Mridha said the trained poultry farmers are now aware of symptoms and can take precautionary measures to check the disease.
Beside this, bird flu protection committee, rapid response teams, and district and upazila surveillance teams are active in all the 14 upazilas, he added.
Sources said to enhance the epidemiological investigation nine committees comprising three animal health workers and two additional veterinary officers have also been formed in nine bird flu-prone upazilas with the financial assistance of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The animal health officers will visit 50 farms or houses a day and send report to the authorities.
In this regard, Chittagong Poultry Breeders Association Acting General Secretary Mohammad Rakibur Rahman Tutul expressed his satisfaction over the activities and precautionary measures by the authorities and emphasised the need for accelerating the mass awareness activities.
“Farmers are now conscious enough and we all are ready to help the authorities to save us from huge losses we suffered due to bird flu last year,” Rakibur said.
Seventeen poultry farms in nine upazilas of Chittagong were attacked by the bird flu last year. The government had to cull 65, 235 chickens and give compensation money of Tk 42 lakh 71,742 to the owners of the affected farms at that time.