Bird flu in 6 Dhaka markets

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - Bird flu has hit six poultry markets in the capital.

In the last 15 days, three workers from one of the markets came down with the flu; however, they have recovered.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) made the detections.

The affected markets are among the 16 poultry markets that are under constant surveillance by the two research organisations, IEDCR sources say.

In the wake of the latest developments, the Department of Livestock Services at a meeting on Wednesday decided to form 10 committees to monitor all poultry markets in the capital.

The committees will be comprised of livestock officials and personnel from the health ministry, police and Bangladesh Ansar.

Musaddique Hossain, a director of livestock services, said they had issued letters to all the stakeholders in poultry trading and processing, asking them to comply with the Animal Disease Act, 2008 that prohibits selling sick fowls.

Each committee will take steps including checking movement of ill or dead fowls, compelling poultry workers to use gloves and masks and to treat bloods, faeces and feathers properly, he said.

Experts say the recent detection of bird flu in market places indicates that more farms affected with the virus are yet to be traced and fowls from these farms are being sold without disclosing the contamination.

IEDCR and ICDDR sources say the flu might spread to other markets from the affected six if precautions are not taken. They have not mentioned the names of the patients or the markets.

This bird flu season, experts say, poultry farmers are not interested to screen their birds seriously, as the government has not compensated the previously affected farms yet.

In Bangladesh, the outbreak of the flu, caused by H5N1 virus, begins in November and continues till April.

"Due to fund constraints, this bird flu season we are yet to start paying out compensation to the affected farmers. The process will begin soon,¿ said Musaddique Hossain, also the country's chief veterinary officer.

Khaled Saifullah Sohel, secretary of Poultry Farmers' Association, told this correspondent that this season farm owners are feeling insecure. If they find any sort of avian flu symptoms in their birds, they hurriedly sell them, fearing financial loss.

Situation was quite the opposite last year, he added. The compensation was sufficient and farmers did not conceal any information of flu symptom.

Musaddique said last year they provided 70 taka (US$.85) for each culled boiler, 150 taka ($1.8) for each layer and 250 taka ($3) for a breeder. Of the total compensation, the government was bearing the half and World Bank the rest.

ASM Alamgir of IEDCR said H5N1 virus could be easily spread through affected fowls, eggs, faeces, blood, egg crates and vehicles which are used to carry poultry.

About the three infected workers, he said the patients became cured as they were diagnosed at the early stage.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the death rate of bird flu affected patients is 58.95 per cent across the globe.

In 2003-2012, a total of 592 persons were diagnosed with avian influenza in 16 countries, including Bangladesh, and 349 of them died from the disease, a WHO report said.

In Bangladesh, so far six persons have been diagnosed with the flu since 2008 with no casualty reported.

According to the livestock services, this season 12 farms have been found infected and 42,000 fowls culled. However, experts and farm owners say the real number is much higher.

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