Avian Influenza
India takes proactive steps to contain bird flu
Mar 17, 2006 - 1:59:37 PM

The Indian government has launched proactive steps to contain the spread of bird flu in 38 districts in Maharashra after four villages in the state reported fresh avian flu cases this week, even as there were fears of the disease breaking out in Madhya Pradesh.

The surveillance areas lie in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, said Upma Chawdhry, joint secretary (animal husbandry) in the agriculture ministry.

"These steps have been taken to ensure early detection of possible avian flu cases," Chawdhry told reporters Thursday.

The surveillance will cover an area of 200 sq km outside of the 10 km radius of the four villages in Jalgaon district, 415 km from Mumbai, where intense inspection was already underway.

The report of the new cases of bird flu Tuesday came almost a month after India's first cases of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza had been detected Feb 18 from Navapur village of Nandurbar district, 140 km from Jalgaon.

Meanwhile, the death of nearly 80 chickens in poultry farms in Burhanpur district of southwest Madhya Pradesh in the last few days has raised fears that avian influenza had also reached the state.

Burhanpur is close to Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Unconfirmed reports said that around 400 hens have died in Burhanpur in the last two to three days.

A total of 147 health workers - one each for 500 people - have been formed for human surveillance in the four Maharashtra villages, said Joint Secretary (Health) Vineet Chawdhry.

"Rapid response teams are in position to conduct house-to-house surveillance. We are still considering whether ring vaccination around infected areas would be required," he added.

Facilities have been created in government hospitals in the four villages where any suspected human case of avian influenza can be kept under observation, Chawdhry said.

Giving details of the culling operations being conduced in the newly affected areas, he said 20,000 birds had so far been killed and spot compensation had been paid to poultry farmers. A total of some 75,000 birds are to be culled.

There have been no human casualties in India so far due to the H5N1 strain of the virus.

Sales of poultry products, mainly chickens and eggs, were badly hit across Maharashtra and other parts of India after the first cases of bird flu were detected last month.

Chickens and eggs were also briefly taken off the menu by airlines and the state-run railways.

The latest confirmation of bird flu in Maharashtra came even as the state government and poultry firms had launched a major campaign to urge people not to shun poultry products.

India is the world's sixth largest producer of eggs and the fifth largest producer of broiler chickens. It produced 43 billion eggs and 1.7 billion broilers in 2005, according to industry estimates.

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