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Bird flu strikes
*8 admitted to hospital in Navapur
*2 lakh chickens culled
*PM assures help to Maharashtra
Tribune News Service & PTI

Mumbai/New Delhi, February 18
In the first outbreak of bird flu in India, eight persons were today admitted to a hospital with suspected deadly avian virus after 50,000 birds died in Nandurbar and Dhule district of Maharashtra.

As the presence of virus was confirmed, about two lakh chickens were slaughtered and buried in the two districts.

The high security animal disease laboratory in Bhopal, where poultry samples were sent, confirmed that eight of them had strains of H5N1 virus that had claimed nearly 100 lives in east Asia a few years ago.

With the threat of the spread of the virus growing, the authorities ordered slaughtering of the poultry in the 3-km radius around the poultry farms in Navapur where the confirmed cases were detected.

At least eight persons were admitted to a government hospital in Navapur and about 80 blood samples were sent to the laboratory for tests, health officials said in Dhule.

Union Health Secretary P.C. Hota said in New Delhi that adequate precautionary measures were being taken to see that the virus did not spread. He asked people not to panic.

The Maharashtra Government has advised people to keep away from eating chicken. In neighbouring Gujarat, veterinary teams have been rushed to Surat where a 24-hour monitoring cell has been set up.

Emergency medical teams and medicines have been rushed to the affected areas.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked to Health Minister A. Ramdoss, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on the need to take steps to tackle the situation. He has assured all help to the affected states.

Pawar said in the past three days teams were rushed to the affected areas that collected samples. Of them, eight had symptoms of bird flu.

He said the Centre had been in continuous touch with Maharashtra to deal with the situation. The Health Ministry and the Animal Husbandry Department of the Central and state governments were working together.

As a precautionary measure, human samples had been taken from suspected case of fever and cold, but results would be known only after two days, he added.

Officials said the government was taking adequate precautions to segregate healthy birds from infected ones.

Control measures as per the international guidelines had been initiated and more vaccines for poultry and more doses of Tamiflu and personal protective equipment had been ordered, they said.

Birds within 3 to 4 sq km around the infected zones would be culled, destroyed and buried in deep pits and covered with earth.

Another 7 sq km area outside the infected zones would be under intensive surveillance where vaccination of poultry against bird flu was being taken up, they said.

Maharashtra Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed has assured that all preliminary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infection to other areas. The entire area has been isolated and the infected birds have been kept separately.

Over 50,000 birds died in the area, having 52 poultry farms, during the past two weeks. Senior officials in the Animal Husbandry department, however, said the cause of death was initially thought to be “ranikhet” disease and not bird flu.

Mr D.K. Rao, Secretary, Animal Husbandry, said at Ahmedabad that 11 veterinary teams had been rushed to Surat. He added the state had nine poultry farms with about 18,000 birds from where about 100 chicken deaths were reported during the past 10 to 12 days.

However, he said this rate of death of poultry birds was normal. The Goa Government has also instructed the state administration to seal the borders to check the entry of birds from other states.
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