Birds seen at a poultry farm in this file photo.—White Star
Birds seen at a poultry farm in this file photo.—White Star

KARACHI: Amid concerns over reports of widespread mortalities at poultry farms across the country due to a disease outbreak, health experts on Thursday called upon the government to activate its food regulatory bodies and ensure that poultry meat of diseased animals wasn’t sold in the market.

“The reports regarding viral diseases in chicken have been circulating in a section of the media for quite some time. These reports are also confirmed by the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA), which stated that there have been poultry mortalities that even forced some farmers to shut their farms,” stated the Pakistan Medical Association.

It urged provincial governments to activate their respective food departments so that supplies of hygienic meat could be ensured to the general public and take action against those playing with the lives and health of innocent people.

“It seems diseases have widely spread in poultry farms and apparently unhealthy chicken is being sold in the market. Unfortunately, there are reports in the media that some shopkeepers are even selling dead chicken to customers at cheaper rates. The government must take action and punish them according to the law,” it said.

‘There are reports that some shopkeepers are selling dead chicken to customers at cheaper rates’

Meanwhile, the PPA clarified that the disease outbreak at poultry farms was caused by Newcastle disease — a highly contagious viral disease affecting poultry of all ages.

“It’s only Newcastle disease and no other disease. The animal losses were up to 25 to 30 per cent but our recent survey shows that the situation has improved and these losses have been reduced to 15 to 20 per cent,” said Abdul Maroof Siddiqui of PPA.

The disease, he said, was an infection of domestic poultry and a worldwide problem.

“The important thing is it’s not transmitted to humans through poultry meat. It’s a disease which comes almost every year but losses are generally not more than five to six per cent,” he said, adding that poultry farm practices had improved significantly over the years and the majority of farmers had shifted from open-shed farming to controlled-shed farming.

“While many farmers have their own laboratories and do their job scientifically, the need for government support remains. It’s important that the government set up laboratories at district level and devise a system in which a disease is diagnosed and contained immediately.”

He was of the opinion that infected migratory birds brought the disease to Pakistan. “You can’t stop birds’ movement and since it’s a viral disease it spreads rapidly if a few poultry birds get infected. It can only be prevented through vaccination.”

The major reason behind high poultry prices, he pointed out, was also the disease outbreak which caused an acute shortage of supplies.

“Also, many farmers have been in losses for over two years due to difference in production cost and the market price they were getting,” he said.

The disease is presented primarily as an acute respiratory disease, but depression, nervous manifestations, or diarrhoea may be the predominant clinical form. Severity depends on the virulence of the infecting virus and host susceptibility.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021

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