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Culling over, cleanup begins

Eleven of the 12 people quarantined have tested negative.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 17:46 IST

Veterinary workers began cleaning up chicken farms and disinfecting homes in Navapur town on Friday after culling hundreds of thousands of chickens hit by bird flu, officials said.

Health officials said fears of human infections were easing as 11 of 12 people quarantined following the outbreak of the virus in poultry had tested negative for the H5N1 strain.

They said the last sample had to undergo further tests to conclusively decide its status and the result was expected on Saturday.

Besides the dozen, two more people were quarantined on Thursday including a veterinary worker involved in culling of chickens in Navapur town in Maharashtra where India's first H5N1 outbreak in chickens was confirmed last week.

"Two more people have been kept under observation in the isolation ward as they have complained of cough and cold," TP Doke, Maharashtra's director of health services, said.

One of the two complained he had fever despite being treated at home for flu-like symptoms and testing negative for bird flu, Doke said.

The blood sample of the other man, a culler, had been sent for testing for avian influenza, he added.

"Our focus now has shifted from culling of birds to cleaning up and sanitising the town," Doke said from Navapur.

Culling in Navapur and surrounding areas was over and more than 345,000 birds had been destroyed, officials said, adding that a few remaining backyard poultry were being culled after compensating the owners.

Groups of animal health workers wearing blue overalls, masks and goggles fumigated empty poultry farms and used spades and dust pans to collect bird droppings, feathers and garbage and burned or buried them.

They destroyed egg trays and sprayed faeces-stained cages used to hold chickens.

At many farms, workers exhumed chickens that had been buried clumsily by owners in shallow pits. They re-buried them and sprayed disinfectant and lime powder on the graves to prevent infections.

Homes of poultry workers were also sprayed with disinfectants.

Authorities on Thursday virtually cut off traffic through Navapur, restricting movements of trains and road traffic to minimise contact between the local people and outsiders.

An agency photographer in Navapur said police had put up bamboo barricades to stop people from passing through some areas of the town thought to be at risk of infection.

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 11:44 IST