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No fears of human infection from avian flu

india Updated: Feb 02, 2008 18:00 IST

IANS
Highlight Story

A senior official on Saturday allayed fears of human infection in avian-flu hit West Bengal even as a health worker who fell sick during culling of poultry remained under surveillance.

The massive slaughter of birds underway across the state for days, with a culling target of 2.9 million, ends on Saturday. The authorities have culled over 2.7 million birds in 13 affected districts.

"The man who fell sick after returning from culling at Rampurhat (Birbhum district) is under special observation at a hospital. His samples have been sent for tests. But so far we have not found anything to suggest he is infected," health official RS Shukla told IANS.

The health worker, Subhas Barui, a resident of Janka village in East Midnapore, was taken ill Jan 30. He was admitted in the isolation ward at Tomluk Hospital, 125 km from here.

"There are reports that he had not taken the Tamiflu tablets, which is unlikely to be true. All cullers take the medicine," Shukla said.

In West Bengal, the H5N1 virus that causes avian influenza has hit parts of 13 out of 19 districts, the affecting areas housing 1.8 million people.

Shukla described as incorrect reports of human infection. "No one has been quarantined. There is only routine surveillance on the people engaged in culling operations. Many of them are anyway falling sick due to the intense cold.

"We are maintaining records of people falling sick. If there is anything indicative of human infection, we will take all necessary measures. But so far all 18 tests we have carried out have proved negative," Shukla said.

In West Bengal, panic is often the buzzword. Overzealous workers at a poultry farm in north Bengal's Jalpaiguri district culled their chickens without even informing the authorities.

Animal Resource Development Minister Anisur Rahman said culling was completed in most of the affected districts and the situation was under control.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) chief medical officer Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay said at least a dozen farms had been allowed to sell poultry products in the city. He asked people to consume chicken without worry.

A report of possible bird flu outbreak in North 24 Parganas' Baduria area, about 50 km from here, is yet to be confirmed.

Earlier, Rahman said all poultry farmers and egg sellers would be compensated and each family losing birds to culling or deaths from the H5N1 virus would be given Rs 500.

Bird flu was confirmed in West Bengal Jan 15. The affected districts are South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan, Bankura, Malda, Cooch Behar, Purulia and West Midnapore.

In neighbouring Bangladesh, which shares a long border with West Bengal, bird flu has affected 29 of the 64 districts. The outbreak was announced Jan 3.