Indian officials test 90,000 people for bird flu symptoms
* Fears of virus’ spread to humans ease as 95 people suspected of infection test negative
* Chicken slaughter in Gujarat almost complete
NEW DELHI: Indian officials battling a bird flu outbreak culled hundreds of thousands of chickens and checked around 90,000 people for symptoms in Gujarat state as authorities ordered tests on dead birds at the other end of the country.
“More than 88,900 persons have been surveyed by the team. Of these 10 human cases have been kept under observation in isolation wards at the referral hospital,” said an official in the western state of Gujarat, who declined to be named, on Sunday.
Another official, Vatsala Vasudev, said officials were going house to house and checking on people. “Anyone with symptoms is being referred to the government hospital in Surat where a special isolation ward has been created,” said Vasudev, Surat district’s top civil administrator.
But 95 people suspected of infection tested negative over the weekend, easing fears the disease might have spread to humans in the country of more than one billion people where many live in close proximity with poultry.
However the government of the northeastern state of Assam sounded a health alert after some 1,000 chickens died over the weekend, ordering tests on the dead birds. “All preventive measures are being adopted in view of the bird flu scare prevailing across the country,” the magistrate of Tinsukia district, Sanjay Kumar Lohia, told AFP.
Last week India reported its first cases at Navapur in Maharashtra state south of Gujarat.
Over the weekend new cases were reported from the neighbouring Uchchal area of Surat district in Gujarat, prompting officials to slaughter tens of thousands of chickens. “The slaughter is almost complete,” Vasudev told AFP.
“So far about 90,000 birds have been killed in Uchchal area from where the new cases were reported,” Vasudev told AFP.
Officials said Sunday about 280,000 more birds have been killed around Navapur.
Vasudev and other officials said the new cases of avian flu that came to light on Saturday were not part of a second outbreak. “The samples from Uchchal that tested positive were taken on the same day as the ones from Navapur,” PMA Hakeem, a secretary in the federal agriculture ministry, told AFP. “Uchchal is about three kilometres from Navapur, from where the H5N1 outbreak was first reported. So that area was already covered under the culling plan” radius of 10 kilometres, Hakeem said. The results from tests on birds from Gujarat came in later, giving the mistaken impression that they are part of a fresh outbreak, he said.
“Operation clean-up and disinfection continued in both Uchchal and Navapur and measures have been taken to contain the spread of bird flu in the region,” he said. “The situation is under control.”
Senior federal health ministry official Vineet Chawdhry said two more people were taken to hospital Friday in Navapur — which was put under quarantine Thursday — to be kept under observation. agencies