There are audible sighs of relief from Manipur's poultry farmers. The state government has lifted the ban on the inter-district movement of poultry feed. This is indeed welcome news for farmers residing outside the 5-km culling zone, marked around the bird flu-hit Chingmeirong farm near Imphal.
The state government had suspended the movement of poultry feed from Siliguri via Assam and Nagaland, after bird flu was confirmed in the state. The decision was then taken to cull all birds, commercial and poultry, within the 5-km radius of the infected farm.
Farmers outside this area under constant surveillance, had recently expressed fears that their poultry would anyway die of starvation due acute shortage of poultry feed, caused by the ban.
In correspondence with the media, animal husbandry ministry officials said the fear was exaggerated. "The birds in this 5-10 km zone are mainly backyard poultry and not commercial who need feed to survive. They are not going to be culled but are under surveillance", one of the officials was quoted.
Meanwhile India's health ministry had given that 51 people in Manipur were quarantined following the bird flu outbreak last month. According to officials, all of them had worked on the culling or sanitizing operations or had been involved in the monitoring of people's health around the affected poultry farm.
Vineet Chawdhry from the health ministry said that as most of the workers had reported malaise, they had to be quarantined and monitored as a precaution. They were administered doses of the drug Tamiflu currently prescribed for the prevention and treatment of bird flu.
The slaughter of more than 330,000 chickens, ducks and pigeons took place within a 5-km radius around the affected poultry farm near Imphal, and health officials have completed checks of around 235,000 people in the area, which is being closely monitored.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) to date the H5N1 virus has killed at least 192 people out of the 319 who have been affected since late 2003.
Though officials from the Animal Disease Control program in Manipur have reported no fresh reports of bird flu , the state remains under strict surveillance.