The Kerala animal husbandry department confirmed on Monday that the death of thousands of ducks in the Kuttanad area of Alappuzha and Kottayam districts was due to bird flu. The department said it was due to the widespread attack of Avian Influenza virus, confirmed by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal. About 10,000 ducks died in the past couple of weeks, causing a huge loss to farmers. The farmers are nursing the ducks targeting the high demand during the Christmas-New Year season. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has convened a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue and precautionary measures. Health minister V S Sivakumar said vaccines will be distributed free of cost in the affected areas. The animal husbandry department said there is no cause for panic, but farmers should be careful when handling the ducks as the disease can also spread to human beings.
The department plans to kill all birds in the four affected villages to stop the spread of the epidemic. The disease is widespread in Thalavadi, Vattakayal, Kainakary, Ponga and Purakkad in Alappuzha district and Aymanam in Kottayam district. It is estimated that around two lakh ducks are being grown in these areas. Department sources said that the disease has spread from the migrant birds, which are common in this season at the Kuttanad paddy fields. The situation is grave as far as the growers concerned. A duck costs roughly RS 250 in the retail market. This may go up to Rs 275-300 during the festival season. The birds show severe respiratory distress, ruffled feathers and watery eyes, causing death in 24 to 72 hours.