|94 human samples test
negative for flu
MUMBAI\NAWAPUR: The worst is over, say relieved health officials tackling the first outbreak of avian flu in India. The first batch of 95 samples from local residents was declared negative by the Maharashtra government on Thursday.
However, doubts remain about one sample from a person in the isolation unit at the local hospital. The sample, which was sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi for testing, has now been forwarded to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for further testing since the result was unclear.
The final result on this sample will be available on Saturday. Until then, the Centre is not announcing an all-clear. But in Nawapur, after almost a week of unbridled panic and frantic culling, the fear has begun to ebb.
"The news of negative tests is a great relief," the state's director-general of health services Dr P Doke told TOI. He added that the 95 samples belonged to the persons at greatest risk (those handling poultry) and that if they had been given a clean bill of health, there was less cause for concern.
Moreover, according to official
sources, the 13 persons—one more was admitted on Thursday afternoon—isolated
at the government hospital could be discharged in a few days.
Meanwhile, government spokesperson Bhushan Gagrani said reports of outbreaks in others areas of the state such as Hingoli and Paithani were still unconfirmed.
"Blood samples from dead birds are likely to be sent for testing to the Bhopal laboratory," he said on Thursday. So far, more than two lakh birds have been culled in a 10-km radius area, and over 5.8 lakh eggs destroyed.
The government has disbursed Rs 7.58 lakh in compensation to poultry owners and small farmers. The government is taking every precaution to check the virus from spreading.
Road and rail restrictions
are in place as per avian flu protocol. Police bandobast was introduced
at the town's five entry points—only National Highway 6 connecting to Surat
has been kept open.
"This has been done to curtail the movement of people into the town, but this is not a total ban on those wishing to enter," clarified an RTO official. The RTO toll booth has been shifted to the edge of the Maharashtra-Gujarat border.
At least 500 passengers who had gone to the original bus stand had to walk the 2 km stretch to reach the new spot near the highway. "I came to attend a 'jatra' (fair) near Nawapur.
But I have decided to go back after seeing so many nakabandis and so much fear of the disease," said a villager, Ganga Ram, from Bhusaval. Although a temporary shed was rigged up, passengers had to suffer the oppressive heat and highway dust.
The state government received 1,000 tablets of Tamiflu from the Centre on Thursday. Another 5,000 tablets are expected on Friday.
"We had to distribute over 6,000 tablets to cullers, health officials as well as to the workers enlisted to destroy bird feathers, droppings, and the like," an official told
First cases of bird flu reported
Mumbai/New Delhi, February
As the presence of virus was confirmed, about two lakh chickens were slaughtered and buried in the two districts.
The high security animal disease laboratory in Bhopal, where poultry samples were sent, confirmed that eight of them had strains of H5N1 virus that had claimed nearly 100 lives in east Asia a few years ago.
With the threat of the spread of the virus growing, the authorities ordered slaughtering of the poultry in the 3-km radius around the poultry farms in Navapur where the confirmed cases were detected.
At least eight persons were admitted to a government hospital in Navapur and about 80 blood samples were sent to the laboratory for tests, health officials said in Dhule.
Union Health Secretary P.C. Hota said in New Delhi that adequate precautionary measures were being taken to see that the virus did not spread. He asked people not to panic.
The Maharashtra Government has advised people to keep away from eating chicken. In neighbouring Gujarat, veterinary teams have been rushed to Surat where a 24-hour monitoring cell has been set up.
Emergency medical teams and medicines have been rushed to the affected areas.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked to Health Minister A. Ramdoss, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on the need to take steps to tackle the situation. He has assured all help to the affected states.
Pawar said in the past three days teams were rushed to the affected areas that collected samples. Of them, eight had symptoms of bird flu.
He said the Centre had been in continuous touch with Maharashtra to deal with the situation. The Health Ministry and the Animal Husbandry Department of the Central and state governments were working together.
As a precautionary measure, human samples had been taken from suspected case of fever and cold, but results would be known only after two days, he added.
Officials said the government was taking adequate precautions to segregate healthy birds from infected ones.
Control measures as per the international guidelines had been initiated and more vaccines for poultry and more doses of Tamiflu and personal protective equipment had been ordered, they said.
Birds within 3 to 4 sq km around the infected zones would be culled, destroyed and buried in deep pits and covered with earth.
Another 7 sq km area outside the infected zones would be under intensive surveillance where vaccination of poultry against bird flu was being taken up, they said.
Maharashtra Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed has assured that all preliminary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infection to other areas. The entire area has been isolated and the infected birds have been kept separately.
Over 50,000 birds died in the area, having 52 poultry farms, during the past two weeks. Senior officials in the Animal Husbandry department, however, said the cause of death was initially thought to be “ranikhet” disease and not bird flu.
Mr D.K. Rao, Secretary, Animal Husbandry, said at Ahmedabad that 11 veterinary teams had been rushed to Surat. He added the state had nine poultry farms with about 18,000 birds from where about 100 chicken deaths were reported during the past 10 to 12 days.
However, he said this rate of death of poultry birds was normal. The Goa Government has also instructed the state administration to seal the borders to check the entry of birds from other states.
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