Coming home to roost

Overnight, they are beginning to disappear from meatshops. Thousands are on the verge of being culled. Fears of an epidemic loom large. For the first time, chickens seem to have come home to roost, literally. A few days back, the authorities detected the deadly H5N1 strain of virus among chickens at Kakarvitta, the easternmost town bordering India. An emergency meeting of the Cabinet declared the affected zone “bird flu crisis-affected area” and decided to take measures to mitigate the dangers that might ensue. At a late hour, though, no efforts to ward off the danger deserve many accolades.

Rumours that the avian flu was detected in Indian states bordering Nepal were already doing the rounds for weeks. However, the reports instead of sending the authorities on high alert were dismissed as of no dire concern. With timely precautionary measures, the likelihood of the deadly virus entering through porous borders would have been much less. Fortunately, no bird flu symptoms have yet been detected in humans. But this is no reason to rejoice. Health and surveillance teams must be at the affected areas to control the spread of the virus, which otherwise could exact a bigger toll. Stringent measures must be adopted in and around the affected area and throughout the country, especially along the border, regarding the transport and distribution of poultry products, at least until the danger is over.