Alarm bells have been rung across Manipur, a North Eastern state of India, following reports that there are strong indications of the presence of the dreaded bird flu virus.
A rapid response team from the Union Health Ministry held an emergency meeting in Imphal the state capital Tuesday night with the Manipur Chief Secretary and senior officials of the state health, veterinary and police departments on the future course of action.
The state government has received the report of test results from High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal where samples were sent from the 132 chicken that died at a farm in Manipur early this month.
When contacted, the laboratory's Joint Director S C Dubey confirmed that he had sent the report to the federal Agriculture Ministry, but he refused to confirm or deny that bird flu was detected in the samples.
Health Ministry officials in the national capital of New Delhi said they were awaiting further tests before any formal announcement.
They, however, felt the outbreak could be of a "freak" nature as other chicken in the farm were not found infected.
But the Government isn't taking any chances given reports of the H5N1 bird flu virus in neighbouring Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) Hospital in Imphal has already set up a special cell to handle any emergency. Two Central officials, A B Negi, joint commissioner in the Agriculture Ministry and an official from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, have been camping in Imphal since July 15.
This could be the third report of avian flu in the country and the first since April last year. The first outbreak was reported in Maharashtra last year in a small area running contiguously with Gujarat. The second one was also reported in Maharashtra.
Teams in Imphal have expanded the surveillance area.
There was widepread panic in the state following the "unusual death" of more than 300 chickens at a poultry farm in Thangmeiband last fortnight, prompting the veterinary department in Manipur to step up surveillance in Imphal East and Imphal West districts.
Officials of the department fanned out to poultry farms located within a 5km radius of Imphal to collect blood samples of chickens.
Manipur sounded an alert following spread of bird flu in neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar earlier this year. Import of poultry products from those countries to Manipur remain banned.