Bird Flu: Experts stress vaccine legalisation over bird culling in India

Countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Pakistan have developed vaccines for these certain strains.

As the number of bird flu cases in poultry have risen substantially in India this month, some experts are of view that India should legalise vaccination against avian influenza (commonly known as bird flu). Right now, India practises the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation that directs countries to practise culling. Citing SK Khanna, a retired poultry development officer, a report The IE noted that vaccination for bird flu is available for some strains outside India and the country should focus on legalizing it.

Khanna said that the WHO guidelines for culling can be better suited for countries that are already developed and are rich. India, on the other, should focus on vaccination. It is to note that the strains for which vaccination is available also include H5N8 which has been detected among Barwala poultry birds. Countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Pakistan have developed vaccines for these certain strains. Also, H5N8 is a strain that only transmits from bird to bird and does not affect humans.

According to the report, some sources cited that vaccines for this are also smuggled in India so that it can be used illegally. Giving a legal go-ahead would not allow such issues to be in place.

Meanwhile, for the process of culling, under the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, a state is bound to provide farmers compensation for culling in the state. However, some cases have emerged where states have failed to pay their farmers the due compensation. Punjab and Haryana High Court had put a stay on the culling process two days ago on the back of the Haryana government failing to pay compensation to the farm owners. Darshan Singla, President of Haryana Poultry Farm Association said that before an appeal was made in the high court, the farmers urged the state government that they should compensate the farm owners for the affected poultry prior to the process of culling.

The Animal Husbandry and Dairying Department has claimed that there are more than 4.2 lakh poultry birds that farmers have lost due to avian influenza in Barwala poultry belt. However, the report said that the farm owners in this poultry belt have claimed that around 40 lakh poultry birds have died in the last two months.

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