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Is the Siliguri bird flu scare justified?
In view of the fresh outbreak of bird flu scare from Siliguri in north Bengal, experts have a divided opinion. Some believe that it’s best to keep the worst fear in mind and operate, while others feel that any kind of hype is akin to ‘scare mongering’.
IN VIEW OF the fresh outbreak of bird flu scare from Siliguri in north Bengal, after 2300 poultry birds died in a farm in Matigara, many experts contend that raising a ‘false alarm’ or ‘scare mongering’ could only compel authorities to take hasty decisions or hijack the investigation report.
 
Now it is really unknown whether the government’s actions are an echo of the above-mentioned common concern with public hysteria swinging them into action, which is good, except that it may just be a placatory move. In the latest development, the administration position seems to have called off the red alert. Upma Chaudhary, Joint Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry says, “There is nothing to fear. The state has on their part conducted two post mortems and both the times it shows a case of new castle disease, an infectious pursal disease, known locally as ‘gamboro’ or ‘ranikhet’.”
 
According to Dr. AP Sachdeva, Poultry Consultant, The Poultry Foundation of India (PFI), Bird Flu is at best an unfounded apprehension. He says,“People are quick to judge it’s bird flu because they don’t know any better. There is a host of reasons for birds to die, that include intense heat; shortage of sprinklers on the farm, tinned roofs and cramped sheds. If at all heat kills viruses not helps them flourish,” adds Dr. Sachdeva.
 
While the reason for the mass death is under scrutiny in the high security Bhopal laboratory, Dr. Prakash Roy, Climate condition and birds expert, WWF, dismisses the climate theory as baseless. He says, “Resident species adapt themselves to local climate and migratory birds are not to be seen during this season, although even the link between bird flu and migratory birds has not been established yet.” Also, Dr. Roy, says, that the assumption that dying birds cause bird flu is too elementary in nature and not established, a rejoinder to the government’s declaration that another sign of the occurrence not being Bird Flu is that “workers show no symptoms”.
 
Dr. Leo Rebello, President of the Indian Council of Natural Medicine and Research, seems to believe that epidemic scares are in the first place politicized to accommodate many a peoples interests that includes the drug mafia. He says, “Has someone counted the direct and indirect costs of the impact of false alarm and scare mongering so far? What was the cost of 8 lakh+ slaughtered birds to the poultry farms when the first outbreak struck, banks and insurance companies? What is the cost of airlifting Tamiflu vaccines from pharma major Hetero Drugs? What is the kickback to the person who has taken this decision, namely the Union Health Ministry? Who is going to watch over infected meat (due to vaccines) mutating that virus and entering human beings by eating these chickens? Birds of various plumage have been with us for centuries.” So, who is creating this scare? Did last times killing of millions of birds indiscriminately not create a deadly locust attack and food shortage? “There are leaders who are sitting at the helm of affairs to take knee jerk decisions and skewing economy to benefit a few.” alleges Dr. Rebello.
 
So if the public confuses Bird Flu with just flu or if the administration runs all the way to the butcher shouting it is or it is not Bird Flu, while veterinary doctors are still busy examining the samples, it is understandable, as everyone likes to contribute to hearsay shaping public opinion, a far cry from Swami Vivekananda’s famous line “Arise, Awake, Act”.
 
 
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