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Fresh outbreak in Maharashtra

Govt has ordered culling of 75,000 birds to prevent spread of the deadly disease, reports Sanchita Sharma.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 15:28 IST

Bird flu has struck chicken in four new villages in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, about 140 km away from Navapur, which was declared free of bird flu just two weeks ago.

Of the 22 samples collected from poultry in Jalgaon, four have tested positive, each from a different village.

"Since February 18 when bird flu was first confirmed in poultry in Navapur, we've tested 6,600 samples, of which only these four have tested positive," said SK Bandhopadhyay, animal husbandry commissioner, department of animal husbandry, Ministry of Agriculture.

"Even though the district is new, we consider it a localised outbreak because the new cases are in the same state and just a district away from Navapur," he said.

The samples from Uchchal in Gujarat that tested positive were collected before February 18. The affected villages are Hated, Sawada, Salve and Marul. All the samples that tested positive were collected on February 25 from backyard poultry.

"Since most of the chicken are kept in backyard farms, the number of birds to be culled will be smaller - about 75,000 - but there's cause for concern since if the birds do not exhibit symptoms and die in large numbers, the infection may spread before it's detected," Bandopadhyay said.

Isolated cases of bird deaths in small numbers take longer to be noticed and identified. What made the government hone in on these case was the fact that surveillance was intensified after the initial outbreak in Navapur.

But given that the outbreak among birds is more diffused this time, poultry will have to be culled in an area of 1,200 sq km. "About 75,000 birds will be culled within a 10 km radius from these villages," says PMA Hakeem, secretary, department of animal husbandry. "The numbers are relatively small as there's just one small commercial farm in the villages with some 3,000 birds."

In Navapur and Uchchal, over 4.2 lakh chicken were culled in 57 farms in the last week of February. No human cases have been reported in India so far and all the people under observation in Navapur and Uchchal were discharged on March 3.

"The government has seven lakh doses of Tamiflu (the drug used to treat bird flu) in stock and Cipla and Hetero Drugs have assured us that they can provide unlimited number of the drug within two days," says Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Bird flu is spreading rapidly across the world and since February 1, the first cases of H5N1 or H5 infections in poultry or wild birds have been reported in Iraq (H5), Nigeria, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Iran, Austria, Germany, Egypt, India, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina (H5), the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Niger, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro (H5), Pakistan (H5), Albania, Poland, Georgia, Cameroon, and Myanmar.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 10:28 IST