LAHORE - A mysterious disease has hit the poultry farms in Punjab resulting in the deaths of thousands of birds across the province, Pakistan Today learnt on Wednesday.
The industry sources said the disease, which has developed immunity against anti-biotic treatment, has plagued Punjab for the last one-and-a-half months and the bigwigs in the industry are making all out efforts to hide it from the masses.
They said that thousands of birds had died due to the disease. The farms at Manga-Sundar Road, Kasur, Sialkot and Gujranwala are badly hit by the disease that causes sudden death of chickens. “Farms along the Manga-Sundar Road that are major suppliers to Lahore are worst hit by the disease,” an industry source said, adding that the disease had developed immunity and made it impossible for farmers to stop the deaths.
The average age of a healthy chicken is around six to eight weeks. However, with this disease, the bird dies in the third or fourth week. Looking at the disease, the farmers are trying to sell the chicken in the early age so that in case of death, the loss could be reduced. “This is the reason that chicken sold in the city are of low weight but infected by disease,” he added.
The supply of chicken has also been disturbed in the city resulting in an increase of prices, which have touched Rs 270 per kg.
“So far, the consumers are not aware of the disease therefore they are buying chicken but due to a reduction in supply, the prices are going up,” he added.
Interestingly, the Punjab government has so far not checked the quality of chicken provided to the city and farmers are getting away and selling their produce.
“The provincial government is not aware of the disease therefore no action is being taken,” the sources added.
Some of the farmers, who spoke to Pakistan Today, confirmed that their stocks had vanished overnight and they were helpless.
Tufail Khan, a manager at poultry farm on Manga Road said he vaccinated his birds but the entire stock died. “At least 40,000 chickens expired in one night. The situation is similar in other farms,” he said, adding that in many farms the mortality rate remained more than 60 percent and in some farms 90 percent of birds had died.
The medicine suppliers to the farmers have also confirmed presence of the disease, adding that so far the companies are trying their best to develop vaccination for the virus but it will take time.
“At least two to three months are required to develope an effective vaccination for this disease,” said a supplier of a company while seeking anonymity.
The veterinary doctors, meanwhile, suggested avoiding consuming chicken. They said that it was not certain which type of disease had hit the farms, therefore it was better not to consume chicken. “The bird flu is killed during cooking at high temperature, but under the current scenario it is advisable for consumers not to eat chicken,” Veterinarian Dr Asef Hameed said, adding that every virus changed its shape and as a result the medicine for this specific disease became ineffective. Pakistan Poultry Association former chairman Abdul Basit confirmed that the disease was an advance shape of the Newcastle disease in which chickens died in the fourth or fifth week of life.