Bird flu prompts flight from poultry, Myanmar

MYANMAR : Chicken farmers are also organising in places like Mon State to contain the spread of the disease, which required a cull of hundreds of thousands of birds in Monywa.

Yangon chicken sellers say that while at first there was little impact from concerns of bird flu, custom has been increasingly dropping off over the past few days.

“People didn’t care about H5N1 bird flu at first, but the chicken market is growing cold,” said U Aung Thant, a chicken broker at Tarmwe chicken and duck market.

Prices fell for three days straight, though perked up by about K200 on the fourth day. Lower-quality chicken sold for K4000 a viss (1.6 kilograms or 2.6 pounds) before the outbreak, and is now selling for K3100 a viss, according to retailers.

Higher-quality chicken has continued to cost K6000 before and after the outbreak, though U Aung Thant said a large amount of supply had also been taken off the market with the cull.

Restaurateurs say that while customers are still coming, they are staying away from poultry and eggs.

Daw Thuzar, owner of Shwe Myanmar restaurant, said seafood has become a popular replacement for chicken and eggs.

“Customers are eating fish, prawns and red meat these days,” she said. “They don’t want to eat chicken, duck, quail and even eggs.”

The restaurant is still cooking some chicken curry for customers who cannot do without the dish, adding staff are taking care to cook it properly.

The Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development has confirmed finds of H5N1 in Monywa, Sagaing Region. The discovery prompted a cull of about 250,000 birds by March 1.

Industry officials say that authorities are taking steps to deal with the outbreak, adding no cases have yet been found in Yangon.

Myanmar Livestock Federation vice chair Daw Hla Hla Thein said she stressed there are no confirmed cases of bird flu in Yangon at present.

A combination of experts from the federation and ministry are now holding classes and seminars to educate poultry farmers and dealers on safeguards they should be following.

“After the bird flu started in Monywa, many educational classes opened in all of Yangon’s townships for chicken and bird health, discussing how to prevent bird flu,” she said.

Some consumers say that even with all the preventative measures being taken, they think it is best to stay away from poultry for now. “I don’t want to eat chicken because of the Monywa bird flu, but I think it won’t spread to Yangon,” said Ma Phyo Phyo, a 25-year-old housewife. “But there are many different foods to choose from, so I can avoid chicken, ducks and eggs for now.”

The Ministry of Health has said that to protect against bird flu, people should avoid breeding chicken, ducks and birds in or under their house; wash with water after touching fowl; and not let children play in areas where birds and ducks frequent.

Those in close contact with poultry that may have been infected ought to wear gloves and masks, avoid chicken and duck markets if possible, and visit the hospital if they have signs including serious illness, muscle pain and frequent coughing, the ministry has said.

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