Culling Continues, No Fresh Bird Flu Cases Reported in Manipur

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 29 2007 2:30 PM

Indian authorities Saturday identified 28 more villages in Manipur for culling operations to curb the spread of bird flu in the northeastern state bordering Myanmar even as Sri Lanka temporarily banned imports of poultry from India.

Animal husbandry department officials have so far culled about 60,000 poultry, including chicken, ducks and pigeons, in a five km radius around a farm in Chenngmeirong village near Manipur capital Imphal where the poultry deaths were reported July 11.

There are an estimated 800 poultry farms in the area and more than 160,000 birds are targeted for culling.

Thousands of poultry were culled in Manipur on the third day of the operation as authorities fearing spread of the avian influenza virus to humans intensified health surveillance.

According to the animal husbandry department of the agriculture ministry in New Delhi, 28 villages have been "identified for culling and proper sanitization works in the culling zone".

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

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

Orissa and Rajasthan have also sounded alerts as a precautionary measure.

Panic gripped Manipur after fresh reports that some 200 chicken were found dead in the hill district of Churachandpur, bordering Mizoram. But state veterinary director Th Dorendra Singh denied that fresh bird flu cases have surfaced.

"We carried out post mortem examinations 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 them for laboratory tests to Bhopal," Singh clarified.

People in Manipur have come out in support of the government's drive to cull the chicken 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 Programme in Manipur, told IANS.

The farm owners were being paid Rs.30 for a chicken culled and Rs.10 for a chick as compensation.

Health authorities said there were no reports of any human victim of avian flu so far and surveillance was heightened to prevent any untoward incident.

"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.

Special isolation wards have been opened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and RIMS, besides some private hospitals, as a precautionary measure.

The outbreak has led to a scare among people. Not willing to take a chance, they are rushing to doctors for symptoms ranging from common cold to fever.

Over 25,000 people living within the five km radius and also hundreds more in Imphal have gone through health checkups. But the tests were found negative, health officials said.

"Such is the panic that my friends and relatives forced me to go to the hospital and undergo a thorough check-up as I had fever for the last two days," Basanta Singh, an education department official said. He was found suffering from common cold.

"The number of patients coming for a check-up with ailments like common cold or minor respiratory congestions has increased manifold in the past few days after the outbreak of bird flu," said D. Singh, a doctor.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has temporarily banned imports of birds and poultry products from the country.

A.M. Baisz, deputy minister of livestock development, said that a temporary ban had been imposed with immediate effect, Xinhua reported.

"This would mean that no import licences would be issued and this is a precautionary measure," Baisz said. He added Colombo recently lifted a ban on poultry imports from the US and Australia.