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Poultry Workers at Risk in Massive Avian Flu Outbreak in Bangladesh

Posted to the IUF website 08-Feb-2008

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Thousands of commercial poultry workers are under threat as a result of a major outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus in Banglandesh. The country's poultry industry has become a significant employer since large-scale commercial production was introduced and encouraged two decades ago, yet commercial poultry workers appear to occupy a marginal position in the government/industry response to the crisis.

News reports earlier this month confirmed that H5N1 outbreaks had been identified in over half the country's districts, with chickens, ducks, pigeons, quails and wild cranes affected. Over a half million chickens have been culled at 136 commercial poultry farms.

One district livestock official involved in the culling operation told the press “There are 1,212 commercial farms in the district and we don’t have enough personal safety gear for the 110 field staff in the district who directly handle sick birds. Affected birds need to be handled with the utmost care.”

And the workers?

The avian flu outbreak in Bangladesh follows a mass outbreak of the H5N1 virus in India's West Bengal, where as of February 1 the virus had been confirmed in 13 districts. The central government is debating a relief package for industry and farmers, but no special compensation - or specific workplace health and safety programs - for commercial poultry workers are under discussion, highlighting the need for urgent action to address the H5N1 virus at the workplace. The West Bengal episode follows last year's large outbreak in the Indian state of Manipur.

Comprehensive news and analysis on workers, trade unions and the H5N1 virus is available on the IUF's website Avian Influenza (H5N1) and Agricultural and Food Workers: Rights, Risks, Public Policy Issues.