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No duck meat on houseboats as bird flu hits Kerala

Tourists travelling on houseboats in the Vembanad lake in Kerala’s Alappuzha, often referred to as “Venice of the East”, will not be served duck meat till further notice, after many birds tested positive for avian influenza.

“As a matter of abundant precaution, directions have been given to the houseboat industry not to serve duck meat till further notice,” Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Many ducks tested positive for H5 avian influenza virus. Tests were conducted after ducks in and around Alappuzha started to die in large numbers in the past week.

Alappuzha is also referred to as the ‘duck capital’ of Kerala, as ducks are reared in paddy fields filled with water during the rainy season. There are around 600 houseboats in Alappuzha district.

Mouth-watering duck meat prepared in the traditional style, duck curries prepared using coconut milk, and a mixture of spices and condiments are the speciality of many restaurants in Alappuzha.

Tomy Pulikattil, who owns a dozen houseboats, told IANS that he has stopped serving duck meat on board his boats since the past few days.

“Generally we do not offer duck meat as part of general meals. Instead, it’s only prepared after getting orders. The overnight boat cruise stops at certain places and tourists can select their own fish and poultry items. Duck meat will now not be there in our cuisine till we get the green signal that everything is normal,” he said.

The nearby districts of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta have also been alerted. Reports from Kumarakom, another popular destination, said poultry samples there have also tested positive for avian flu.

“The government has stepped in promptly, and we do not expect any dip in tourist arrivals. Everything is normal here,” Pulikattil said.

Earlier Tuesday, a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy decided to cull about 200,000 poultry birds as a precautionary measure against avian influenza.(IANS)

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