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Monday, February 20, 2006

Bird Flu Hits India

Until the second month of 2006, bird flu pandemic has not reached India. Even though there was some scare about the spread of this deadly disease back in 2003, but it never materialized. However, in the early third week of February 2006, the threat became reality when the H5NI virus finally made inroads into the poultry farms of India.

The deadly virus was found in poultry farms in Navapur, Maharashtra and soon created confusion and scare among the people. Even though the trace of the virus is found only in the Navapur area, but precautionary measures have been taken all over India. Tests have been conducted on suspected livestock in the poultry farms to confirm the outbreak of the disease. And after a series of specific tests from 279 poultry samples it was confirmed that the bird flu has finally hit India.

So far, until 21 February 2006, no human case of bird flu has been confirmed. But not taking any chances, the government has kept seven people with symptoms of cold and fever in isolation at the Navapur sub-district hospital. 95 blood samples from people who work at the infected poultry farms and have symptoms of cold and fever have been sent to Pune’s National Institute of Virology (51 samples) and Delhi’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (44 samples). The result will be available in four days.

Steps Taken

A 3-km radius around infected farms at Navapur in Nandubar, Maharashtra, has been cordoned off. All transport and trading of poultry banned in the area. Culling and vaccinations of livestock are underway in infected areas to prevent the spread of the virus. Any unusual sickness or death among poultry has to be reported to the Centre.

The Indian government has stockpiled 50,000 courses of Tamiflu and is procuring another 20,000. Medicine to treat 1,100 people has been sent to Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Delhi, all poultry entering the city will be routed through the wholesale market in Ghazipur. Big hospitals like AIIMS are ready with isolation wards and protective gear. However, contrary to the previous reports on the dipping price of chicken in the Southern States, in Delhi, a rise in chicken price is apparent in the market due to supply glut.

No need to panic, yet

Since the outbreak of the bird flu is limited to the Navapur area in Maharashtra, peoples should need not to panic. Measures have been taken to prevent any spread of the disease into a pandemic. To assure the people that eating chicken is safe, WHO experts say that once the chicken is cooked at over 70 degree Celsius and the eggs are boiled hard, there is no way the virus will survive. Washing the hands and any culinary apparatus by using soap to keep the hygiene will help in ensuring the safety in consuming livestock.

So, I can still have my chicken fry, chicken kebabs, chicken tikka masala and anything that has ‘chicken’ in it safely as long as it is prepared well and hygienic.


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