Hyderabad, April 22, 2015: Veterinary officials ordered 250,000 birds to be slaughtered in India’s Telangana district, after cases of the H5N1 virus were identified. Veterinary staff from the local government’s animal husbandry department carried out the cull – which included destroying hundreds of thousands of infected eggs – at Thorrur village in the Ranga Reddy district.

The chickens and other poultry have been culled by twisting the neck, following the outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu in India. The virus which can be deadly in humans, caused the deaths of nearly 400 people and hundreds of millions of poultry after it spread from Asia into Europe and Africa. Killing birds by twisting the neck is extremely labor intensive and demands hundreds of responders.

The risk that responders get infected and become carrier of the disease is high and this method should be banned as method of mass culling. As a cheap alternative, the authorities could have ordered the use of solid CO2 (dry ice) instead. The use of dry ice in plastic bags is 100% effective and reduces direct contact between animals and humans.

The lack of proper preparation by the local veterinary authorities caused that they didn’t have any alternative method available, what then forced them to apply hundreds of people to kill the infected birds by hand. It is to be expected that HP H5N1 will continue to reoccur in India via the route of this type of emergency response, unless the authorities step up their control measures and start using culling methods that exclude contact between infected animals and responders.

The carcasses and the eggs, including those stored in warehouses, were dumped in a pit.Bird feed stock was burned and the sites were all thoroughly disinfected in a bid to stop the virus from spreading. India has culled 6.4 million birds due to bird flu since 2006.

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