(Formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Bird flu outbreaks up sharply in 2011

Backyard poultry occupies more than half of Bangladesh's poultry market. Farm grown and home grown chickens have separate markets. This is a home grown chicken market in the capital, Dhaka.
Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN

Outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu among poultry in Bangladesh - already three times higher this year than the same period last year - have caused “serious concern” for the authorities.

“We are undertaking heavy surveillance at farms and teams are supervising markets to prevent sick chickens from being sold,” Director-General of the Department of Livestock Mohammad Ashraf Ali told IRIN.

The avian flu death toll may mount given how such outbreaks typically occur up to June, said the chief technical adviser for the Food and Agriculture Organization, Mat Yamage.

But reports of increases may not be a bad thing, he noted. “One hypothesis [for the increased number of outbreaks], though unconfirmed, is that farmers are more willing to report bird flu because the rate of compensation more than doubled this year. This is a positive development, as farmers generally no longer opt to sell sick poultry.”

Ashraf said the loss to farmers was still being estimated; he was reluctant to specify precise compensation levels per bird.


Yamage said he could not give a figure for compensation because it depended on the type of bird and its age, adding: "It won't be possible to calculate the total losses suffered by the poultry industry until much later. There are also secondary effects, such as a loss of consumer confidence."

A compensation figure of US$2.8 per bird has been mentioned in some areas.

While the government has trained farmers how to prevent the spread of H5N1, still worrying is how farmers may not be practising “bio-security”, such as using solid fences and nets to quarantine infected flocks, and disinfecting footwear, said Yamage.

“Bangladesh has a very high population density - and as every backyard farm has poultry, it’s very easy for the virus to spread from one backyard to another,” said Ashraf.

Since the beginning of the year, 200,000 birds have been culled in 92 outbreaks. About two million birds have been culled since the first outbreak in 2007.

Bird flu was first detected in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, in March 2007 and one human case was reported in May 2008.


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