Please wear protective gear, vets urge livestock workers


Vulnerability of poultry and cattle farm workers against different infections demands mandatory provision of protective gear for them, said a group of veterinary surgeons on Wednesday.
They said the probability of contracting viral infections increases among these workers particularly when temperature fluctuations are the norm.
With winter slightly setting in, occasional rise in mercury is being witnessed in different parts of the country, including Karachi, which usually affects the immunity of many.
Dr Shehzad Bashir, who is associated with a private veterinary hospital, said poultry farm workers suffering from cold are among the high-risk groups to contract bird-induced viral infections, if directly exposed to it.
“As a job requirement, they must use gloves and masks while handling the poultry,” Bashir added.
Responding to a question, he said doctors have been frequently asking the department concerned as well as poultry farmers’ body to ensure that safe working practices are introduced among the workers.
“Fever, cold and cough are not unusual. However, extreme care among poultry farm workers as well as all those handling birds at any stage is required,” said Dr Barkatullah, a senior veterinary surgeon.
He said, “Though the country has been enjoying ‘bird flu-free’ status for the past four years, yet the necessary precautionary measures cannot be ruled out.”
He also said like any viral disease, this infection also emerges in winter and could be contracted by human beings coming in direct contact with infected birds.
“The intention is not to scare but to sensitise people about the importance of prevention,” added Barkatullah.
The veterinary surgeons urged the relevant authorities to introduce a standard procedure in accordance with international practices, saying that it must be implemented without further ado, especially during the high-risk season.
Asking for proper sensitisation of the poultry farmers and workers about different bird diseases, the doctors said sensitisation would help avoid unnecessary panic that severely affects the business.
Dr Zahid Ali, a senior physician, regretted that little attention is being paid to vaccination of chickens against influenza.
Ali said certain complacency prevails among the farmers as well as the authorities concerned in a scenario when no disease might be registered among the birds.
“It is only when an epidemic is reported via the media, whether confirmed or suspected, that haphazard measures are attempted to be taken,” he added.
Dr Birjees Qadir said all poultry farmers need to be conscious of the symptoms so that suspected cases might undergo urgent confirmation while affected birds are culled in a proper manner and disposed of safely.
Talking about whether or not vaccination of people against influenza could be helpful, Qadir said those directly handling poultry must be vaccinated and also provided with necessary protective gears.