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Culling over, doctor under observation

M'rashtra health officials are monitoring 65,000 people including a doctor with fever and respiratory problems.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 16:08 IST

A doctor with fever and respiratory problems was under observation in Maharashtra where tens of thousands of birds were culled to contain a second outbreak of avian flu, officials said on Sunday.

The latest outbreak -- in backyard poultry in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra -- was the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu, but it has not infected people so far.

However, late on Saturday, a doctor walked into a local hospital and asked to be put under observation, joining a 11-year-old boy with high fever and a history of exposure to dead birds.

"The doctor is not from the affected region and neither was he exposed to dead birds, but we didn't want to take a chance," TP Doke, Maharashtra's health director, told Reuters.

Blood samples of the two had been sent for testing. The boy was being given Tamiflu, the drug that fights bird flu in humans.

Health officials were monitoring 65,000 people spread over 17 villages. Of them, some 150 people had fever, but authorities said the figure was normal.

"Moreover, these people aren't showing flu-like symptoms, just normal fever," said Vijay Satbir Singh, Maharashtra's most senior health official.

Blood samples of about 90 people from Jalgaon had been sent for testing, but officials said that was purely out of "academic curiosity".

Veterinary officials said they had finished culling all chickens -- numbering more than 75,000 -- in four villages spread over 1,100 square km in Jalgaon district identified as affected by the outbreak.

Samples from unaffected poultry elsewhere in Maharashtra were being collected to ensure bird flu had not spread beyond Jalgaon.

Jalgaon is 200 km from Navapur, where India reported its first case of the H5N1 strain in poultry last month.

After the first outbreak, India tested more than 100 people for bird flu but all proved negative.

Indian authorities said last week they had contained the virus after culling hundreds of thousands of chickens in Navapur town and neighbouring areas, but within days the second outbreak was reported from Jalgaon.

First Published: Mar 19, 2006 15:17 IST