MILAN (Reuters) - Bird flu can strike again in high-risk areas of India although the country reined in the recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in West Bengal, the United Nations’ food agency FAO said.
Avian influenza’s deadly H5N1 strain hit India in January. More than 3.9 million chickens and ducks were culled to prevent the spread of the virus across the country, Food and Agriculture Organisations said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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.
No new disease outbreaks have been discovered since Feb. 2, FAO said.
FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said intensive surveillance in high risk areas should be maintained as the possibility of new outbreaks remained 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,” Domenech said.
Avian influenza hits mostly birds but its H5N1 strain has killed 234 people since 2003 when it began in Asia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
FAO said India should take measures to smooth negative impact of massive culling on poor small holders. India should also continue public awareness campaigns over the next months to introduce rural communities to safe poultry production and basic biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of human infections.
Live bird markets, migration of wild birds and transportation routes of birds and poultry products should be mapped to boost control of the spread of the disease, FAO said.