Web Exclusive: Russian cull from bird flu grows and grows
Russia is hit again by H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in poultry.
Russia was one of the first countries to ban import of German poultry following the outbreak of H5N1 in commercial ducks in Bavaria, but was promptly forced to announce an outbreak of its own several days later.
Ministry for Emergency Situations had warned about outbreaks of H5N1 in southern regions throughout the summer with the Chelyabinsk region of the south Urals pin-pointed as most likely.
True to form H5N1, appeared in the first week of September but not in Chelyabinsk, said reports from RIA Novosti but it was in Bryukhovetsky district of the southern Krasnodar region – much further west and bordering the Black Sea. Krasnodar is on the route taken by migrating birds and therefore subject to higher infection risk.
About 500 chickens died at the Lebyazh-Chepiginskoye poultry farm in the town of Razdolny on 1 September, with the cause subsequently confirmed as H5N1. Twenty-two thousand birds housed in two buildings were culled on 5 September. This was not the entire poultry population of the farm. Selective culling seems to be a risky strategy although in other respects, the authorities were clamping down hard, with reports that criminal charges could be pressed against the farm’s manager.
Selective culling clearly proved untenable. By 26 September, 170,600 birds had been slaughtered at the Lebyazh-Chepiginskoye farm and the remaining 77,500 were due to be culled in the near future, said Alexander Skorikov head of the animal health department at Russia's agriculture watchdog talking to RIA Novosti.
A cull of this dimension is historically high for Russia. Around 1.3 million birds were culled during the whole of 2005, dropping slightly to 1.04 million for the following year. This year’s figure had dropped to below 300,000, but if single huge losses like this one happen again, 2007 could see the biggest total loss yet.H5N1 has now been responsible for the slaughter of well over 600,000 birds across Europe in the last few months – firstly in the Czech Republic, then Germany and now Russia. News coverage has been surprisingly sparse.