Russia uses army to tackle AI in Kostroma Oblast

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

The military is helping Russian farmers tackle the aftermath of a massive bird flu outbreak
The military is helping Russian farmers tackle the aftermath of a massive bird flu outbreak

Related tags Poultry farming Livestock Poultry

The Russian Army has been deployed to help deal with the aftermath of the largest outbreak of the avian influenza (AI) in Kostroma Oblast, where 600,000 chickens have been culled, according to a 9 January report in the Russian Gazette, the official publication of the country’s government.

The outbreak of the AI strain H5N2 was first registered at the Kostromskaya poultry farm on 19 December and the AI diagnosis confirmed several days later.

Regional authorities had to employ the help of chemical defence troops from the Russian Army to carry out a set of quarantine measures at the facility, including the removal of biological waste from the factory, said deputy governor of the region Alexey Smirnov.

Both personnel and military machinery were used at the site of the outbreak, Smirnov said, as he revealed the army originally started working at the farm in late December.

This is the first time Russian authorities have used the military to deal with the outbreak of a veterinary disease. In all previous cases, resources from the Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor and the regional veterinary bodies have been sufficient to handle the outbreaks.

Kostromskaya was one of the largest poultry farms in Kostroma Oblast. It supplied poultry meat and eggs to several neighbouring regions. However, suspicions that poultry products infected with AI were exported to Tver Oblast, near Moscow, have never been confirmed officially.

Despite the outbreak, the farm will not be shut down completely, said Sergey Ivanov, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry’s regional office. The company had already purchased young chicks to be delivered during the spring, but it will take a year for the facility to reach its previously planned production levels on broiler meat and eggs, he added.

AI raises concerns

Russia has seen its poultry exports restricted due to the recent outbreak. In particular, from 5 January, Belarus has banned imports of chicken and eggs from Kostroma Oblast. A similar restriction has reportedly been imposed by veterinary authorities in the United Arab Emirates.

Azerbaijan may also restrict imports of poultry products from Russia, although it didn’t import anything from Kostroma Oblast, so there is less need for such a measure, the country’s veterinary service said in a statement on 9 January.

Meanwhile, serious concerns are being aired, as the source of the AI outbreak remains unknown. During a press conference in late December, Antonina Shigoreva, a spokesperson for the veterinary department of Kostroma Oblast, said the virus could have been introduced to the facility through feed or via some vehicles used for transportation. Neither of these potential sources has been confirmed as yet.

In late December, Konstantin Rachalovsky, governor of Rostov Oblast, where major AI outbreaks were registered in early 2017 at farms belonging to Eurodon, said the main sources of spread for the virus were most likely sparrows and other wild birds. However, earlier, Eurodon’s owner Vadim Vaneev, speaking to a local press about the source of infection, had suggested it had been introduced deliberately to disrupt the business.

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