Bangladesh authorities Friday March 23 ordered a series of steps including poultry culling and health examination of people at inflicted poultry farms a day after the government announced the detection of bird flu at suburban Savar, report agencies.(News Today)
“By now you are aware of the outbreak of the avian influenza or bird flu at several poultry farms in Savar. The government agencies concerned took urgent steps soon after the detection of flu at the farms,” Health Adviser Maj Gen (retd) Dr Motiur Rahman told a press conference also joined by Agriculture and Livestock Adviser Dr CS Karim
and officials concerned.
The agriculture adviser told the newsmen under the urgent steps taken so far over 33,000 poultry were culled and buried in the six inflicted farms, people”s movement were restricted around the poultry ranches and conducting “chemo-profiling” and health examination, and monitoring of those handled inflicted poultry birds.
Dr Motiur, however, said preparations were under way from two-years ago to face such situation and the authorities
undertook a series of steps to prevent further proliferation of the flu, which so far attacked 60 countries in Asia and Europe with Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia being the last victims.
Dr Karim said the authorities also ordered stamping out and disinfecting all poultry ranches around one kilometre radius of the afflicted firms, ban on transportation of poultry birds, chickens, eggs and pet birds to anywhere from within 10 kilometre radius in the affected area through virtual fencing and collection of people engaged in the flu inflicted ranches.
He said the joint forces were asked to come in aide of the district administrations to carry out “intensive and constant” monitoring against the avian flu across the country while the agriculture and livestock and the health ministry opened round the clock control rooms to monitor the development.
Following an urgent cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed the authorities last night confirmed the outbreak of the H5N1 subtype of bird flu that so far killed 169 people and attacked 281 others in 60 countries.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Dhaka Dr Duangvadee Sungkhobol also joined the briefing and said the high population density exposed Bangladesh to intensified avian influenza but through “aggressive actions” involving all stakeholders and massive public awareness could help the South Asian country to overcome the crisis.
“We are very concerned because of the population density of the country,” she said but hastened to add that the proliferation of the disease could be prevented through culling with cooperation of poultry farm owners alongside people”s awareness and other “aggressive actions”.
Both the health and agriculture advisers urged the people not to get panicked with the outbreak of avian flu as the human infliction of avian influenza were not reported from anywhere in South Asia including India despite the outbreak of the bird flu.
They referred to studies by experts saying that the chickens or eggs of even the flu-inflicted poultry birds were safe after proper cooking provided the people handling them properly clean their hands and bury the poultry remnants underground.
Yet, Dr Motiur said, the Mohakhali Chest Hospital was kept prepared after massive mock exercises to treat possible avian flu patients while a large number of doctors were already trained to detect bird flu patients to be referred to the facility in Dhaka.
The adviser said there would be no dearth of drugs to treat people if required, a notion supported by the WHO representative, but said vaccines needed to save the poultry birds could appear a little expensive.
Dr Karim said currently the poultry industry involves some two billion dollars while the number of poultry birds at farms and households was estimated to be 20 crore and four lakh people were directly dependent on the poultry industry, considered a budding sector with a growth rate of about 60%.
Experts said there 15 strains of flu that affect birds, but the one causing the amplifying global scare is the H5N1 subtype, highly lethal to domesticated birds. It has circulated in migrating wild birds for years and has spread to poultry flocks, starting in Southeast Asia, spreading to Russia and other parts of Europe and Asia.
Avian flu was first identified in Italy around a century ago. It was not thought to be transmissible to humans until 1997, when the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong, also involving H5N1.
In the latest outbreak, around 60 people in Asia died, amounting to roughly half the known number of infections, which is a very high fatality rate.
Almost all these casualties were directly exposed to infected fowl, making contact with the virus through the birds” saliva, nasal secretions and faeces, which become dry, pulverised and are then inhaled. Avian flu is not a food-borne virus, so the risk from eating properly cooked chicken is negligible.
According to the WHO bird flu in humans causes symptoms that are like human flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, conjunctivitis, pneumonia and other severe respiratory diseases.
At present, H5N1 is not easily transmitted from bird to human as a person would have to pick up a lot of virus in order to be infected. Nor is it easily passed from human to human: there have been only three suspected cases, in Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam, where this is believed to have happened.
WHO experts said the big worry, though, is that H5N1 could pick up genes from conventional human flu viruses, making it both highly lethal and highly infectious. Because it would be a radically new pathogen, no one would have any immunity to it.
“In such case the situation would go beyond anybody”s control as it happened in 1919 when the avian influenza pandemic claimed at least 50 million human lives,” said the health adviser, himself a doctor and public health specialist.