Bipin Bhardwaj/Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh/New Delhi, December 17
Bird flu has been confirmed in one of the 30 domesticated geese that died at Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh. Of the six samples sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal, one has tested positive for the dreaded avian influenza (H5N1). The Bhopal lab has communicated its findings to the Chandigarh-based northern region office of the Central Poultry Development Organisation.
The samples were sent to Bhopal after more than two dozen geese (ducks) had died under mysterious circumstances at the lake in the past two weeks. Sources in the Department of Animal Husbandry (under the Ministry of Agriculture) told The Tribune that some samples (from Chandigarh) had tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N1. “The process of assessment of disease and its notification as avian influenza has started,” they said.
"Between the receipt of lab reports and final notification of the disease at any location, there are certain procedural formalities. A report is needed from the state or the UT concerned on the scale of potential culling around the affected area. Since poultry farmers are affected by culling, the Centre and the state concerned have to work out a compensation plan. It consumes time. We are in touch with officials from Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana,” said a senior Animal Husbandry Department official.
The Central authorities said there was no cause for panic. “As a precaution, people should stay away from the lake, the epicentre of the disease,” they said.
The UT Administration, as a precautionary measure, has suspended all activities in and around Sukhna Lake.
“Though no alert has been issued by the Centre, we have banned all activities at the lake as a precautionary measure”, said KK Sharma, Adviser to the UT Administrator. The Animal Husbandry Department of the UT Administration had initially sent the samples to the Regional Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL) in Jalandhar. While RDDL scientists had ruled out avian influenza and said the geese died due to starvation, the samples were later sent to Bhopal for reconfirmation and reinvestigation.
UT Municipal Commissioner-cum-officiating DC VP Singh said they have not received any official confirmation about the avian influenza from the Centre. “We are monitoring the situation and have started taking preventive measures. After a joint meeting between officials of the animal husbandry department and the health department, Prince Dhawan (director, animal husbandry) has been appointed as the nodal officer.”
Joint Secretary, (HSADL), Rajbir Singh Rana, has asked the CDPO director to take strict bio-security measures. The CDPO has also closed its sale counter. "We will send a Central team to Chandigarh to implement the public health plan. We are in touch with the animal husbandry department," said Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry.
After the notification of the disease, the “action plan of animal husbandry for preparedness, control and containment of avian influenza” drafted in August 2012 will come into force along with the contingency plan circulated in 2005 by the Ministry of Health.
Ministry officials said their part of the emergency plan would consist of active surveillance of people residing within three-km radius of the epicentre of the outbreak. “Active surveillance means day-to-day surveillance of people, especially those who report respiratory tract infection. The plan also comprises periodic surveillance of people residing within three to 10 km radius of the lake. This will continue till the notification of the disease is withdrawn,” Health Ministry officials said.
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