Saving the poultry sector without harming public health

INDIA - The poultry industry of the country is facing difficult times following detection of the dreaded avian flu virus among chickens in some farms in Savar and Gazipur. The government and the farm owners concerned have been taking necessary steps to clear the affected firms by destroying the chickens infected with the virus. Thousands of birds have already been killed, burnt and then dumped underground. Certain areas surrounding the virus affected farms have been closed to the movement of people and animals so that the virus may not spread further from those places. Meanwhile, the media, the government and others concerned have started awareness programme so that the people may understand the correct nature of the threat posed by the avian flu.
calendar icon 29 March 2007
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While making common people aware of the threat, emphasis has been laid on the need to avoid panic about the bird flu. The early steps taken by the government and others concerned to contain the menace must be appreciated. However, despite the drastic steps being taken by the authorities concerned to confine the blight within the affected farms and their immediate vicinity, the disease might have spread to other areas, as unconfirmed reports from the remote district of Jamalpur already indicate. Whether the report of the virus spreading to Jamalpur is true or not is not the point of contention at the moment. What is of more importance is the mental preparedness of the authorities to face up to the possibility of proliferation of the pandemic to other parts of the country and fight the disease wherever they are detected.

One very important issue needs to be stressed at this point. It is understood that pressing the panic button over the avian flu issue is not desirable at the moment. That is simply because, here one is talking about an industry that is experiencing a robust growth, employing about five million people and having an annual turnover of about taka 60 billion. So, it is in the greater interest of the industry and such large number of people who depend on the poultry sector directly or indirectly that one has to be careful about spreading false reports and rumours. But one must also accept the other no less important side of the story which is about the consumers' right to access the correct information about realities at the moment. In other words, one has also to be alert to the fact that suppression of information about the further spread of the menace to new areas in the country would be a self-defeating attitude towards the problem. What is at stake here is the need to maintain the people's trust in the business in the poultry sector. The consumers at home and abroad want to be assured that the industry and the government are behaving responsibly in combating the avian flu pandemic and not cheating them by way of suppressing facts.

Source: The Financial Express

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