Maharashtra to widen bird culling operations
Feb 22, 2006 - 3:17:37 PM
The area for culling of birds in the region of Maharashtra that reported India's first case of bird flu will be extended as authorities Tuesday went on the overdrive to check against the spread of the disease.
Medical experts stepped up door-to-door surveys in affected Navapur village of Nandurbar district, some 300 km northeast of here, to identify possible human avian influenza cases.
"Earlier, we had decided to exterminate all birds within a radius of three km of the area where the infected birds were found. Now we have extended it to 10 km," said Maharashtra's Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed.
"The number of additional birds to be culled as a result of the extension won't be large as not many big poultry farms are located outside the three-km radius," Ahmed told IANS on telephone from Navapur.
"We have decided to do this as a precautionary measure. The entire exercise is likely to be completed by tomorrow (Wednesday)."
Over 60 teams of doctors and more than 100 poultry workers are carrying out the mass culling operations, wearing masks and other protective gears.
Officials plan to cull nearly 800,000 chickens within the three-km radius of the area where the infected birds were found. Officials said another 20,000-30,000 birds might have to be put down as a result of the widening of the area to the 10-km radius.
The government has offered farmers compensation of Rs.40 per bird culled - an amount poultry farmers say is too meagre and won't help them in tiding over massive losses.
Reacting to reports that international norms were being flouted in the culling exercise, Ahmed said the situation at ground zero was much better than in the previous two days.
Reports said many poultry farm owners, who were asked to dispose of their birds by civic authorities, packed them in gunny sacks and buried them alive. At many places, people handled birds without any protective gear.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in Nandurbar district rushed to local hospitals Tuesday to get themselves tested for avian flu.
Officials said they were awaiting reports of tests conducted on over 100 people at Navapur village to find out if the virus had infected humans.
India's first confirmed case of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza was reported from Navapur Saturday after tests were conducted on thousands of dead chickens.
"So far, we have not come across any case of human avian influenza," said Vijay Satbir Singh, Maharashtra's health secretary.
"We have collected 104 blood samples from people in Nandurbar district. The samples have been sent for tests and we are expecting reports in a couple of days."
Besides this, 10 people, eight of them children, have been kept under observation after they reported flu-like symptoms. About 40,000 people have been surveyed in the affected region.
"The door-to-door campaign is being carried out on a priority basis to detect any human infection. As of now, we have not come across any human case that showed symptoms of avian influenza," Singh said.
The Navapur hospital has been strengthened with the addition of a 15-bed isolation ward and four ventilators. Two anaesthetists and four clinicians have been added to its regular staff.
"We are keeping all our medical staff ready to meet any eventuality. If the need arises, we have decided to refer serious patients to hospitals in Mumbai," said Singh.
Known to spread to human beings, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has resulted in nearly 100 human casualties across Southeast Asia, mostly in Vietnam. It has so far been reported in seven countries.
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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