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Eat chicken, no need to panic: Health Minister

Anbumani Ramadoss, however, said the source of outbreak of the deadly bird flu has not yet been ascertained.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 13:40 IST

Government on Monday assured Lok Sabha that there is no cause for public concern over the outbreak of bird flu in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra and said it is keeping a close watch on the situation.

"There is no cause for panic. Government is keeping a close watch on the situation. Other states have also been alerted to remain vigilant," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said while making a suo motu statement regarding outbreak of Avian Influenza.

Observing that the samples from poultry in the affected area have been tested positive for H5N1 strain of avian influenza, Pawar said a series of strategic actions have been initiated immediately on confirmation of the disease.

The actions include declaration of infected and surveillance areas, absolute ban on movement of poultry or its products in infected areas, closure of poultry and egg markets and shops and destruction of affected poultry followed by proper disposal.

The Centre, he said, has rushed to Maharashtra vaccines for poultry, Tamiflu for humans and personal protective equipment.

Rapid response teams of Animal Husbandry Department and Health and Family Welfare Ministry have been rushed to affected areas, Pawar said adding Health Ministry teams were carrying out surveillance of human population in the area.

Pawar pointed out that as per WHO recommendations, poultry and poultry products can be safely consumed if cooked to 70 degrees in all parts of the food.

He said it was a policy of the government to compensate for loss of poultry on account of culling and destruction of birds.

The Centre will share cost of compensation on 50:50 basis with state governments, the Minister said.

Maintaining that the present outbreak was localised to a limited area in Navapur taluka of Nandurbar district in Maharashtra, he said containment operations will extend to cover some poultry in adjoining areas in Uchchhal tehsil of Surat district in Gujarat.

'Eat chicken, no need to panic'

In a press conference late on Sunday night, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss maintained that the situation arising out of the outbreak of bird flu in Navapur, Maharashtra, was totally under control and advised people, "Eat chicken, no need to panic".

He, however, said the source of the outbreak has not yet been ascertained as the government was now focussing on containing the deadly disease from spreading.

"Rapid response teams have been rushed to the affected areas in Maharashtra. We have quarantined the entire area and the first phase of culling of three-to-five lakh chicken has begun," Ramadoss said at a hurriedly-called press conference.

He said only three birds have been tested positive for H5N1 strain till now and arrangements had been made to vaccinate poultry in the affected areas of Navapur tehsil of Maharashtra's Nandurbar district and Surat district in Gujarat.

"People need not panic..It is safe to eat a chicken after heating it for 20 minutes or 70 degree centigrade," Ramadoss said.

Teams from the National Institute of Communicable Disease are vaccinating poultry birds in a ten kilometre radius of the affected area while simultaneously culling of chicken was going on in around 16 farms in Navapur, Ramadoss said.

To a question, he said approximately three-to-five lakh chicken would be culled and the figure could go up if needed.

"One million vaccines, adequate stocks of Tamiflu, the anti avian flu drug, protective gears have been rushed to the affected area," he said.

"The situation is under control. People need not panic," he said and rubbished reports of a person succumbing to bird flu in Surat district of Gujarat.

"There are reports that a person had died due to bird flu. Absolutely not. He has not been associated with affected birds in Navapur. The cause of his death was septicemia," he added.

He said the government has lifted samples from people associated with birds and sent them for testing.

The Health Minister said he was in touch with Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prime Minister's office, Home Ministry and officials of the Animal Husbandry department and is monitoring the situation.

"We have sent advisory to all states to report immediately if there is any suspected case of bird flu irrespective of whether the number is less or more," he added.

Ramadoss said 90-95 people associated with poultry have been quarantined as a precautionary measure.

He said the samples taken have been sent to a testing centre in Bhopal and from there human and bird samples would be sent to WHO reference laboratories in Hong Kong and Australia respectively for a second opinion.

The Minister said funds would not be a constraint to tackle bird flu and Rs 100 crore has already been allocated for the purpose.

Asked whether there was any foul play in the outbreak of the disease as hinted at by former NIV director Kalyan Banerjee, he said "if someone is trying to mislead the country and the people, he would be taken to task."

He also expressed his readiness to make a statement in Parliament and pay a visit to the affected areas if the need arises.

"If opposition demands a statement, I am ready to give it. It would be myself or Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar," he added.