Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bird flu: Thailand culls ducks

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) summarizes news from Thailand that the government is taking aggressive measures to combat their growing bird flu outbreak:
Feb 11, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The Thai government has announced plans to cull about 2.7 million free-range ducks to stem the spread of avian influenza, the Bangkok Post reported today.

Ducks have been found to shed high levels of the H5N1 virus without appearing ill. The national avian flu committee agreed in principle yesterday to cull free-range ducks, the newspaper reported.

More than a million adult ducks have been moved to farms or slaughterhouses, while another 5.5 million were confined to areas in northern and central provinces to be sold to the government, the Post reported.

The government’s measures will destroy a way of life for about 4,000 farmers but won’t control the spread of avian flu, Somnuek Promchaiwattana, leader of the Free-Range Duck Traders and Producers Club, told the Bangkok newspaper. Shifting to closed farming will cost more and force farmers to raise ten times as many ducks to realize a profit, he said.

The plan to cull ducks was announced less than a week after officials said hundreds of wild birds had died of avian flu in Thailand's central province of Nakhon Sawan.


On the one hand, a serious approach to bird flu seems warranted. On the other hand, given concerns raised here, here, here and here by Ron Nigh, the move to large "closed farms" seems problematic.

The role of large confinement poultry farms has not been seriously considered in the control of bird flu. It should be.