First bird flu cases registered In Maharashtra, India

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

The first cases of bird flu have been registered in the world's second most populous country, India. The cases registered are reportedly from the Nandurbar Slaughter House in the western state of Maharashtra. Some 1500 birds have been reported as having the disease. Maharashtra Animal Husbandary Minister Anees Ahmed confirmed the reports and said that effective steps will be taken with the help of eminent veterinarians. Ahmed also said a high-level meeting was under way in Mumbai to assess the situation and to decide how to cull the large flocks of birds in poultries in Nandurbar and Dhule districts.

The minister also stated that state authorities had decided to cull all 500,000 chickens in the farms in an area of roughly three kilometres around the farms where the infected birds were found.

More than 25,000 chickens had died in poultry farms in the district over the past 10 days, district official Jayant Gaikwad said.

This is the first time that the disease has been reported in India, a nation of 1.1 billion people. There were no reports of infected people and Maharashtra government officials said there was no reason to panic.

The federal cabinet was meeting in New Delhi to take stock of the situation.

India's animal husbandry and health authorities have a contingency plan in place in case of an avian flu outbreak. The government has said that there are adequate supplies of the generic Tamiflu drug to meet an emergency.

Ahmed said consignments of the drug had been flown to northern Maharashtra, but there have so far been no reports of humans becoming infected.

Doctors have been rushed to the affected areas to take precautionary measures, he added. India's Animal Disease Laboratory also confirmed the virus in dead chickens.

Maharashtra is the second most populous state in India, having a population of 120 million.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed at least 90 people since early 2003, can infect humans in close contact with birds.

Sources

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