While the Coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over the cockfights that are organised on a large scale in the State during Sankranti, the outbreak of bird flu in some parts of the country has come as a major blow to the plans of the organisers. Cockfights are officially banned in the State, but the fact remains that the police department can only watch helplessly as people indulge in their favorite pastime during Sankranti festival.
Organisers go to great lengths to make arrangements for cockfights, and ensure their success. This year, Covid had cast a shadow on the cockfights, but the decreasing number of cases had brought hope to the organisers. Now, with the outbreak of the zoonotic disease, their plans have gone awry.
Incidentally, the Centre has issued a bird flu alert to states after cases of H5N1 avian influenza were reported from several places across the country. The Central government has asked the states to take all possible steps to contain the spread of bird flu “on an urgent basis”. It has warned that there is a possibility of bird flu spreading to humans and domesticated animals.
Animal Husbandry Department officials in Vizag said though the spread was limited to some states, considering the pandemic and now the bird flu, cockfights should not be organised. “It would be gambling with the lives of the patrons if precautions are not taken. We have already directed our field staff to monitor the health of birds and livestock,” the officials said. Zoonotic diseases carry the risk of transmission between animal and humans, though bird flu infecting any human has not been reported yet.
However, health experts say that the risk is simply too great to ignore. “The highly lethal bird flu virus can spread from poultry to humans through contact with blood, faeces and droplets of fluid,” health experts say. It is this risk that is weighing down on the organisers and they are in a dilemma whether to go ahead with their plans or lose the money already spent on rearing and training of the birds. Meanwhile, prizefighting roosters are being sold online and in some pockets of the Godavari districts. Also, cases have been registered against people for rooster fights.
Health experts say that the biggest risk of any spread of bird flu comes from migratory birds. More than 2,300 migratory birds have died in Himachal Pradesh due to bird flu outbreak. Most of the birds to have died of H5N1 avian influenza are bar-headed geese in the Pong Dam reservoir area in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The threat also looms large over Andhra Pradesh as thousands of exotic migratory birds flock to bird sanctuaries at Telineelapuram (Tekkali forest range) and Telikunchi (Kasibugga forest range) in Srikakulam and water bodies like Kolleru and Pulicat lakes in the state.
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