Should poultry farmers be compensated to stop bird flu epidemics?

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Bird Flue (avian influenza) is a disease of birds that affects domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys. The flue is caused by viruses, resulting illnesses and deaths of flocks of birds. The bird flu causing viruses pose threats to human health also. Sporadic human cases of bird flu are possible but the disease transmission from human to human does not happen easily and therefore the risk of spreading disease in community-level is very low. The first case of the avian flu in Nepal was reported in January 2009.

Most recently 62 cases of bird flu have been recorded from 250 poultry farms in the region. A bird flu emergency is declared in parts of Nepal’s capital after fresh cases emerged in different areas of the Kathmandu valley including Bhaktapur. The Animal Health Directorate has banned trading of birds and everyday authority is slaughtering thousands of chicken (infected or not infected) to contain the disease epidemic.

Chicken farmers in the area have blamed to faulty vaccines meant to fight bird flu. The farmers have accused the vaccination made in USA that may have triggered bird flu outbreak in Bhaktapur. People believe that powerful countries have been using poor countries like Nepal as a laboratory.
bird_flu_nepal1
Chicken infected by Bird Flu, Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Image source: http://www.nepaldispatch.com (Date: August 17, 2013).

According to WHO, worldwide as many as 377 persons died of bird flu and they are from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Turkey, and Vietnam. So far, human deaths due to the bird flu have been not reported from Nepal.

Nepalese farmers are bearing the unprecedented loss due to this crisis. Farmers are now starting to refuse to cooperate with government authorities to cull the non-infected chicken since the government is not increasing the compensation amount as pledged before. The poultry farmers have declared that they will not allow government to destroy their poultry unless they get compensated in line with market prices. However, they are ready to destroy the diseased birds keeping in view of protecting human health.

Virus that causes bird flu has potential for tremendous impacts in public health if the virus makes it transmission to human and maintains sustainable human to human transmission. Containing the virus before it is too late is important public health responsibilities of the government and other stakeholders. Poultry farmers only should not bear the burden of this campaign. Farmers should be compensated adequately so that the poultry business in this resource poor country remains intact and confidence of farmers stays high.

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4 Responses to “Should poultry farmers be compensated to stop bird flu epidemics?”

  1. smalvolti Says:

    Animal-human transmission of influenza viruses is one, if not the main, avenue that can lead to pandemics. Virus spread in poultry or wild-life should be dealt with from this perspective if aimed at influencing citizens behaviour and minimising risks; not merely as a veterinarian or worst a purely business problem.
    Interventions aimed at minimising the risk of transmission shall be carried on at all levels: education of individuals, mobilisation of communities, definition of the right policies all play a role in triggering behaviour change of individuals. However, as most behavioural interventions they require time.
    The only intervention with immiediate impact is the widespread elimination of all animals in infected areas. This has proven effective in many South-East Asian countries in limiting the spread of the H5N1.
    Such intervention however, as noted in the blog, more and more encounter opposition from poultry farmers that see the economic sustainability of their enterprise put in jeopardy and require for this reason indemnification for the loss.
    If we look at the problem from a purely economic standpoint or from a veterinary one the answer is negative. This is the inherent risk of doing business. If we look instead from a public health standpoint and assess the importance that the measure is implemented extensively the answer changes: partial or total pay-off for the lost animals is justified as the best way of ensuring the achievement of the desired goal: elimination of any transmission opportunity.
    In the public interest the cost of the intervention have to be shared across the community.

  2. bishwaa Says:

    I agree with your comments that the risk of disease transmission should be carried out from all level. Elimination of infected birds is one of the effective strategies to protect public health from the potential influenza pandemic. In the context of least developed countries there are inherent problems in quarantines, disease diagnosis and veterinary services to prevent domestic birds from infectious diseases like influenza. Government policy of aggressively killing birds (both sick and healthy) is affecting farmers unilaterally. Poultry farmers’ demand for compensation in line with their investment and bank loan must be addressed since the benefits from the reduction of risk associated with pandemic goes to all sectors.

  3. afitzgallagher Says:

    This posting brings up some interesting points. Virology tends to look at the microscopic perspective of disease threats- how a virus is spread, what is the source, etc. While it is important to understand the epidemiology of viruses, it is also important to appreciate human element. This would include both the health risk and the economic impact of infected countries losing much needed sources of income. It would be good to find a balance between researchers needing to go in to disease infected areas to understand emerging viruses and respect for the livelihood of those inhabitants of disease infected areas.

  4. bishwaa Says:

    Thank you for your comments. That is exactly what I wanted to convey from this blog. Integrated approaches are needed to fight the diseases that have potential of large health and economic consequencies.

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