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Bird flu cases strike Maharashtra
February 18, 2006 17:55 IST
Last Updated: February 18, 2006 21:37 IST
In the first instance of the deadly avian flu virus in India, the Maharashtra government on Saturday said chicken have died of the disease in the Nandurbar and Dhule districts, which have a large number of poultry farms, even as the state authorities have rushed immediate medical help to the affected areas.
The high security animal disease laboratory in Bhopal, where poultry samples were sent has confirmed that seven samples had strains of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus, official sources said in Mumbai.
State Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed has assured that all preliminary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infections to other areas and the entire area has been isolated, and the infected birds have been kept separately.
The minister also cautioned people in Dhule and Nandurbar districts from consuming poultry products and emergency medical teams and medicines were rushed to the affected areas. There was however no cases of the human infection.
Medicines, airlifted from Delhi, have reached Aurangabad and are being taken to Nandurbar by road, the minister, who is currently in Nagpur said.
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters that the government was taking all measures on a war footing to combat the disease and that there was no cause for panic. "This was the first time that India has been affected by the bird flu virus, but we are confident of tackling the situation."
Over 50,000 birds have died in the area, having 52 poultry farms, during the past two weeks but senior officials in the animal husbandry department said the cause of death was initially thought to be "ranikhet" and not bird flu.
Poultry birds within a three kilometer radius of Nandurba from where samples were sent to Bhopal will be culled using carbon monoxide and through birdfeed mixed with medicines, the minister said adding neighbouring Gujarat has been alerted as large number of poultry from Maharashtra is supplied to that state, especially Surat.
The Maharashtra government has alerted authorities in neighbouring Gujarat who have set up a 24-hour monitoring cell at Surat.
Eleven veterinary teams have been rushed to Surat, D K Rao, secretary, animal husbandry said at Ahmedabad adding the state has 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 poultry deaths was normal.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Centre activated its action plan to prevent the spread of bird flu and officials said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss would speak with Maharashtra authorities on the issue.
"The health ministry is seized of the entire development and appropriate action is mooted at appropriate level," sources said adding, as a precautionary measure ministry officials were already deputed to all states.