TAXILA: Thousands of chickens have died of the contagious Ranikhet (Newcastle) virus at poultry farms in Hassanabdal’s Jallo locality.
Several poultry farms in different parts of Hassanabdal, Jallo in particular, have been affected by the disease in the last few weeks.
Ranikhet disease is a contagious viral disease that affects chickens and birds of all ages.
The owners of affected farms told the media that three viruses – infection bronchitis, influenza H-9 and Newcastle disease – have resulted in the deaths of thousands of chickens in just a month. They feared that the current situation would lead to a shortage of chicken in local markets, and some farmers said their stocks had disappeared overnight.
Poultry farm owner Wajid Raza told Dawn that local farm owners have halted chicken farming due to the spread of infections.
“We have to bear the loss of millions of rupees, as chickens are dying due to the spread of these viruses,” he said. Mr Raza said he had vaccinated his birds, but they died anyway.
“At least 10,000 chickens died in one night. The situation is similar at other farms,” he added. He said the mortality rate in many farms was more than 60pc, while some farms had lost 90pc of their birds.
“The concerned authorities have not taken any steps to stop or cure the outbreak of such disease in local poultry farms,” Mr Raza said.
Another farm owner, Sajid, said farm owners have lost millions of rupees to the spread of the disease, claiming that the virus had developed immunity that made it impossible for farmers to prevent the deaths.
He also said that thousands of birds have died of the Ranikhet disease in the Jallo area, adding: “The average age of a healthy chicken is around six to eight weeks. However, with this disease, the bird dies in the third or fourth week.”
Sajid also alleged that the vaccine available in the market was substandard and had failed to cure chicks, putting an additional burden on farm owners.
Newcastle or Ranikhet disease is a serious paramyxovirus disease that affects poultry and other birds, veterinarian Dr Mushtaq Ahmed told Dawn. Clinical signs include coughing, gasping, sneezing, diarrhoea, petechiae, twisted neck and paresis of legs and wings.
Dr Ahmed said while vaccines and their schedules are available from various manufacturers worldwide, the disease remains a threat to the poultry industry. Once affected, chickens and other avian species – pigeons, parakeets, backyard chickens, crows, kites, sparrows, doves and so on – act as a continuous source of infection for healthy chickens.
Dr Ahmed suggested training for farmers and the introduction of modern technology in the poultry sector.
According to Dr Asif Rafeeq, an additional director at the livestock department, Hassanabdal falls in a disease control zone where vaccinations are carried out on schedule by respective poultry farm owners, as commercial vaccinations do not fall within the government’s domain.
He said farm owners have not yet contacted the livestock department for post-mortem examinations of the birds to ascertain the cause of death. He added that the department would ensure the bio-security of all farms so that the dead chickens can be buried according to standard operating procedure.
In response to a question, Dr Rafeeq said the Newcastle virus has spread across the province recently, killing thousands of chickens, and the livestock department is providing guidance and awareness to poultry farm owners.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2019