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More poultry culled in wake of bird flu

Hundreds of more poultry are culled as authorities fearing spread of the avian influenza virus to humans intensified health surveillance and rushed in two respiratory ventilators from New Delhi.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2007 12:04 IST

Hundreds of more poultry were culled in Manipur on Saturday as authorities fearing spread of the avian influenza virus to humans intensified health surveillance and rushed in two respiratory ventilators from New Delhi.

Around 60,000 poultry, including chickens, ducks, and pigeons have been culled since the drive began on Thursday.

About 34 Rapid Response Teams with five members in each group led by a veterinarian is involved in the culling.

The state government on Wednesday sounded a general alert across Manipur and banned the sale and purchase of poultry after the outbreak of avian flu was confirmed at the Chenngmeirong farm near state capital Imphal.

"Laboratory tests have confirmed presence of H5NI strains, which are highly infectious in nature," state veterinary director Th Dorendra Singh said.

Panic gripped Manipur on Friday after fresh reports that some 200 chickens were found dead in the southern hill district of Churachandpur, bordering Mizoram. But experts later said the deaths were not due to avian flu.

"We carried out post mortems on the dead birds and found that the deaths were due to e-coli, a bacterial infection. We have preserved samples of the dead birds and would be sending it for laboratory tests to Bhopal," Singh said.

Locals in the area have come out in support of the government's drive to cull the chickens even as some tried to smuggle out poultry to escape culling.

"In several places, local vigilante groups have caught people trying to evade culling of their poultry and this is a heartening development," K Gopal, nodal officer of the Animal Disease Control program in Manipur, told IANS.

The culling of an estimated 160,000 birds was being carried out in an area of five km radius from the farm at Chenngmeirong from where the deaths were reported July 11.

There are an estimated 800 poultry farms in the area. The farm owners were being paid Rs 30 for a chicken culled and Rs 10 for a chick as compensation. Health officials said there were no immediate reports of humans contracting the virus.

"No human infection has been reported so far although two respiratory ventilators arrived from the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD), in New Delhi, as a backup," Manipur Health Secretary P Vaiphei said.

The Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal has also installed seven such ventilators. "Eight more ventilators are being requisitioned from New Delhi," Vaiphei said.

More than 12,000 people living within the five km affected zone went through health checkups on Friday and some of them with fever and other respiratory infections had their blood tested.

"The tests were negative and there is no need to worry," a senior health official said.

Special isolation wards have been opened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, besides some private hospitals, as a precautionary measure.

There has been no reported case of bird flu in other states of the northeast, but the spread of the virus in Manipur has led to panic in the region with authorities in the adjoining states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, and Mizoram, sounding a general alert and banning import of poultry.

First Published: Jul 28, 2007 11:51 IST