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Bird flu has subsided in India: Official

Within weeks it had spread to some nearby areas including across the state border in Gujarat.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2006 17:44 IST

Bird flu has subsided in India with no new cases reported since March, the top official in charge of prevention efforts on Wednesday.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has killed more than 125 people worldwide since 2003, was first diagnosed in India in February when thousands of birds were found dead in Navapur in Maharashtra.

Within weeks it had spread to some nearby areas including across the state border in Gujarat.

About 1 million birds were culled in a radius of around 10 km (six miles) from the affected areas. No human infection has yet been reported.

Since the March outbreak there has been no incidence of bird flu in the country, said PMA Hakeem, secretary of the department of animal husbandry and dairying, the central body dealing with the crisis.

"We feel that it has subsided. Of course, the onset of summer has also helped in containing this," Hakeem said.

Apart from the affected pockets of Maharashtra and Gujarat, samples collected from all the other states where there was a suspicion of avian influenza had tested negative, he added.

"In the practical sense we are free because there have been no cases in the past two-and-a-half months," he said.

India was now following a drill laid out by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), conducting surveys and tests around the affected areas, Hakeem said.

This could lead eventually to the country being declared free from bird flu.

"We hope this should take place within six months," he said, but added that authorities had issued an alert for next winter, especially at the country's 200 or so migratory bird sanctuaries.

Avian flu is believed to have come to India through migratory birds who flock here in their tens of thousands each winter from as far afield as Siberia and western Europe.

Scientists fear the deadly H5N1 strain could evolve into a virus which can pass easily from person to person, triggering a pandemic that could kill millions.

First Published: Jun 07, 2006 17:44 IST