Disease unlikely to affect humans: Punjab safe from bird virus, say experts
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: Punjab is safe from the bird virus that has killed at least two million chickens in the port city of Karachi, say officials in the Punjab government and veterinary experts.
Minister for Livestock and Dairy Development Syed Haroon Ahmed Sultan said Tuesday that the Punjab is “fully protected” from the bird virus and that all precautionary measures have been taken to ensure it remains so.
Dr Khushi Muhammad of University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, who was in Karachi recently to lend his expertise, agreed.
Mr Muhammad explained that the Punjab, especially Lahore, is safe from the virus because most fowl have been vaccinated. He hastened to add that all poultry farmers must get their livestock inoculated immediately.
Healthy birds cannot be vaccinated, he said. “Once the virus matures, and it does in five days, then all vaccine is useless,” said Mr Muhammad.
Migratory birds, especially ducks, brought the virus to Pakistan some months ago, said Mr Muhammad. The country’s environment, especially near the coast, has proven conducive to the spread of the disease, he added. “Usually this disease occurs if the birds are depressed,” he said. “And the causes of the depression are feed-carrying fungus.”
Mr Muhammad faulted farmers in Karachi for not inoculating their livestock and the authorities there for not incinerating the dead fowl.
The strain of bird virus in Pakistan is different—and less contagious—than the one that plagued Hong Kong, North Korea and Australia, said Mr Muhammad. Though humans would likely be unaffected by the virus, he said care should be taken to ensure the infected, dead birds are disposed of “completely and properly”.
Livestock Minister Sultan said vaccination of birds had begun, especially in and around Rawalpindi, a major source of poultry. He said mobile veterinary squads had also been dispatched and contact and cooperation with authorities in Sindh was ongoing.
A spokesperson for the Department of Poultry Production and Technology said there has been no report of the disease in the Punjab. At the provincial level, laboratories for testing birds and vaccinating them are at the ready, she said.
Abdul Basit, chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association’s Punjab Chapter, said the virus was under control and that the media was raking up the issue needlessly.
Mr Basit said significant damage has been done to the chicken population. “There are around 10,000 poultry farms in the country and 30 percent of them in Karachi,” he said. “Around four million birds have died, that’s 80 percent of the total population.”