HYDERABAD: It was only after 39,240 birds perished that the state animal husbandry department woke up to the deadly avian influenza virus doing the rounds on the city outskirts. The deaths of layer birds (used for egg production) took place in two poultry farms in Thorrur village of Hayatnagar mandal a full one week before the government declared the bird flu outbreak.

The owners of the two poultry farms, V Bala Krishna Reddy and Srinivas Reddy, had reported the deaths of the birds from April 6-April 13 to the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory (HSADL). The lab, in turn, informed the central government following the samples of the dead birds sent to them by the Reddy brothers turning positive for the H5N1 virus.

The state animal husbandry department, which was in the dark of the developments all this while, was finally informed about the outbreak by the central government’s department of animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries.

The break-up of poultry deaths that fell prey to the avian influenza include 80 (April 6), 160 (April 7), 400 (April 8), 1,600 (April 9), 2,500 (April 10), 17,500 (April 11), 9,000 (April 12) and 7,500 deaths (April 13) respectively, as per records in possession with TOI.

“This is a glaring example of how the government officials had utterly failed in reporting the disease, which is mandatory for all notified diseases including H5N1, as required under The Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009. The stakeholders must be held accountable now as the damage has already been done,” said city-based wildlife expert Dr C Srinivasulu.

In fact, the Section 4 of the Act states that it is obligatory for the owner or any person in charge of any animal which he has reason to believe to be infective of a scheduled disease, to report the fact to village panchayat or villager officer, who in turn has to report it to the nearest government veterinarian.

However, it is learnt that nothing of this sort happened with top officials of the directorate of animal husbandry, Telangana, admitting that neither their veterinary assistant surgeon Anand Reddy nor two village livestock officers (VLOs) of Hayatnagar mandal in Ranga Reddy had any inkling of the outbreak in their local jurisdiction.

Interestingly, Dr Y Thirupathaiah, additional director, directorate of animal husbandry, Telangana gave a clean chit to their officials. “Our people cannot be blamed as the burden of sharing information about the outbreak of infective diseases vests with the village officer and the panchayat. We will be writing to the Ranga Reddy collectorate for action against the erring officials,” he said, acknowledging that they learnt about the outbreak from central government sources on April 13.

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