India quarantines 3 as bird flu spreads faster
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India quarantines 3 as bird flu spreads faster

India began a door-to-door search for people with fever, quarantining three babies in hospital.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 17:16 IST

In an attempt to contain its first outbreak of bird flu, India began a door-to-door search for people with fever, quarantining three babies in hospital.

In Europe, France tried to calm consumer fears after its first case of the H5N1 virus was discovered at the weekend by asking people to eat chicken.

India's health minister said the situation was "under control".

Authorities in Eygpt shut down eight zoos for weeks after 83 birds died there, some containing the deadly H5N1 strain.

At least 11 countries have reported bird flu outbreaks over the past three weeks, an indication the deadly virus is spreading faster.

The officials in the remote district of Nandurbar in Maharashtra launched a door-to-door check for people with fever, and continued a mass cull of between 300,000 and half a million birds.

Three young children with flu-like symptoms were hospitalised on Monday, joining a woman and a child who were placed in an isolation ward the previous day.

"Three children, all under the age of two, have been quarantined and put in the isolation ward of a hospital in Nandurbar district," Vijay Satbir Singh, health secretary of Maharashtra, said.

"There is no confirmed case of human avian influenza. I would like to assure ... the situation is closely monitored and under control," Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told parliament.

No human victims yet

His statement came after preliminary tests on Sunday on a dead farmer suspected to have been the first human victim proved to be negative for the disease.

Bird flu's relentless march into the heart of Europe from Asia continued with the virus reaching the German mainland at the weekend and Romania detecting further cases of dead poultry.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said on Sunday consumers should help falling chicken farmers by continuing to eat chickens.

France confirmed its first case of the H5N1 virus in a dead duck on Saturday.

A photographer in Nandurbar said health workers wearing blue overhauls, anti-viral masks and goggles were culling chicken by wringing their necks or mixing chemicals in chicken feed.

The television images showed dead birds being dumped in pits covered up by heavy earthmovers.

TV also reported hotels and airlines dropping chicken and eggs from menus.

Poultry workers have been warned against culling chicken without protection after television images showed many of them using their bare hands to bury thousands of culled chicken.

Economic impact

The shares in Indian stock markets dropped on Monday as investors fretted about the economic impact.

Investors sold shares in farm products makers and hotels, fearing a drop in revenues, and bought shares of generic drug firms that may begin to sell influenza drugs.

Domestic poultry prices fell up to 40 per cent and were likely to remain depressed for a couple of weeks, Shashi Kapur, president of the Poultry Federation of India, said.

On Monday, Pakistan banned poultry from its neighbours, which found the disease in wild swans last week.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 17:16 IST