The Centre has asked four states affected by an outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, to begin surveillance among human population as a precautionary measure. No case among humans has been reported in the country so far.
“…It is absolutely critical that appropriate measures for effective containment among bird/poultry population and active surveillance in human population has to be ensured…,” Rajesh Bhushan, secretary of the Union ministry of health and family welfare, said in a letter to the four bird flu-hit states (Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh).
The letter asked the states to identify high-risk zones and carry out surveillance among human habitats. “…further, you are requested to keep vigilance for any unusual death amongst the bird/poultry in the State,” the letter added.
Thousands of birds have died in Kerala (mostly poultry), Himachal Pradesh (mostly migratory birds), and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (mostly crows) since December-end. Officials said migratory birds are behind the outbreak. In addition, around 400,000 poultry birds have died in Haryana’s Panchkula over the past 20 days, sounding alarm bells. Their test reports were awaited. “No case of human transmission has been reported in India so far, but states have been asked to step up vigil in order to detect warning signs early. High-level teams have also been rushed to these states to take stock of the situation and devise preventive strategies, if required,” said a senior health ministry official.
The ministry has deployed special teams in Panchkula, apart from Kerala’s Alappuzha and Kottayam districts.
A three-member central team took stock of the situation in Alappuzha, officials said. The team comprising the Union health ministry’s public health specialist Dr Ruchi Jain, Pune National Institute of Virology scientist Dr Shailesh Pawar and Delhi RML Hospital physician Dr Anith Jindal visited the hotspots in the district.
State authorities have banned the sale of bird meat and eggs in the affected regions. To provide relief to the affected farmers, the state has decided to compensate them for culling their birds.
On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh reported the first cases of the flu virus spreading from crows to poultry, forcing the state government to consider culling of thousands of bird. Two samples of poultry birds tested positive for avian influenza in two districts, said JN Kansotia, principal secretary, animal husbandry department.
Madhya Pradesh has already banned transportation of poultry from other states to check the spread. The state has also banned the sale of chickens and eggs within a radius of 1km of the affected areas in Indore for seven days, officials said.
In Neemuch, all meat and egg shops have been shut. “Two days ago, 40 crows were found dead in Neemuch but bird flu is yet to be confirmed in the crows. As a precautionary measure, we ordered closing of all meat and egg shops,” said district collector Jittendra Singh Raje.
Odisha heaved a sigh of relief after tests of 11,000 poultry birds came negative. The samples were tested after 120 birds died in a poultry farm in Kurda.
In Jharkhand, the animal husbandry department has sent 700 samples of poultry birds and four crows that were found dead in Jubilee Park in Jamshedpur to the Research Disease Diagnostic Lab, Kolkata, for tests.
(with inputs from HTC in Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Bhopal)