November 28, 2005


Bangladesh orders poultry farms to monitor for bird flu



Bangladeshi authorities have ordered field-level officials to strengthen monitoring at poultry farms in an attempt to avert an outbreak of bird flu, as the government fears the deadly virus could spread through migratory birds during winter, officials said Sunday.


Bangladesh has had no reported cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in poultry or in humans, authorities say.


But the government is taking precautions, since thousands of migratory birds spend November to January or so in Bangladesh, said Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock official Abdul Karim.


He said the government has tightened vigilance so poachers cannot hunt migratory birds. Illegal hunting and selling of migratory birds is rampant in Bangladesh.


Recently, the country's Ministry of Environment and Forest issued a circular to protect the designated swamps, lakes and forests for the migratory birds, including one in a university campus near Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, he said.


He said field-level livestock officials have also been asked to collect samples from the poultry farms and test them at laboratories for the virus.


Meanwhile, health officials in a Dhaka hospital have been asked to remain alert in case of any outbreak of the bird flu.


"We are set to take all precautionary measures so our doctors and nurses can act properly in case of any emergency," said the government's public health institute official Shahadat Hossain.


The country has failed to train poultry farm workers, and in many cases they even do not use masks or gloves, said Syed Abu Siddique, a spokesman for the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association (BPIA).


He said the group is pressuring the government to train the farmers, and were encouraging farm owners to improve safety standards.


Some farm workers have already been given basic training by BPIA, Siddique said. But he said government help is needed for training, since the association lacks money.


Earlier, Bangladesh banned poultry imports from 17 Asian and European countries that reported cases of bird flu.


Bangladesh has about 150,000 poultry farms with an annual turnover of US$750 million, officials said.


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