In 2006, the bird flu scare was all around although no incidences of bird flu were reported anywhere around Bangalore. But now, despite thousands of birds dying due to the avian influenza at the Central Poultry Development Organisation & Training Institute (CPDOTI) in Hesaraghatta, authorities are yet to take cognisance of an expert’s advice given through an editorial in Current Science six years ago.
While the occurrence of the dreaded H5N1 avian influenza has been confirmed at the CPDOTI at Hesaraghatta, near the city, the state government might not have the necessary know-how or the facilities to tackle it effectively, warns Prof R Uma Shaanker, a crop physiologist from the University of Agricultural Sciences who had, as early as 2006, advised the state government to place contingency plans to tackle the disease through a guest editorial on the scientific journal, Current Science.
For one, the very suddenness with which the avian influenza took the authorities by surprise showed that forecasting the disease had completely failed, he said.
There needs to be a good monitoring and forecasting system in place by the government, said Shaanker. The forecasting programme can be built on any number of epidemiological models that are available.
However, Shaanker’s editorial in Current Science had failed to attract the attention of the state government in being prepared for the worse-case scenarios. He lamented the lack of manpower to “undertake epidemiological studies” (studies pertaining to effect of a certain disease on a population and its spread trends), which are necessary for forecasting disease outbreaks and spreads.
“I am afraid that right now the government does not have any such programme in place,” he said. Although he told DNA on Tuesday — six years after the article appeared — that the warning applies even more now than ever before, the civic and health machinery in Bangalore has not budged an inch, leaving all the work to the state department of animal husbandry to primarily restrict disease spread from birds in the epicentre zone outwards.