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Bird flu: Indian poultry farmers cautioned

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January 28, 2004 20:28 IST

The Tamil Nadu government has asked people in Namakkal district, which has the largest poultry population in the state, to be vigilant against the virulent bird flu disease, which has affected many Asian countries.

Poultry farms in the district have at least 23 million chickens.

"We are educating poultry farmers about Avian influenza and are fully prepared to meet the situation," Dr R Manickam, dean of the Veterinary College and Research Institute at Namakkal, told PTI over phone. He, however, claimed that there are no reports of Avian influenza in the country.

Any case of infection would have to be referred to a laboratory in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, which had the facility to confirm the H5N1 strain of the bird flu.

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Frequent disinfections, preventing strangers from entering the region and close monitoring of fatality of poultry are some of the steps to be taken to counter the influenza, he said.

The Maharashtra government has alerted the medical fraternity, municipal corporations and other concerned agencies to look out for symptoms of the bird flu in both humans and chickens.

"Even though the bird flu has not affected India, in view of the SARS crisis, we cannot afford to be lax," director of the Health Directorate Dr S Salunke said in Mumbai on Wednesday. "We are awaiting detailed guidelines from the committee recently set up by the Centre on the symptoms, standard definition of flu cases and the kind of lab tests to use," he said.

Meanwhile, local experts say that it is 'too early' to get alarmed.

"So far, we have not had a single case of flu and since we have stopped import of birds and livestock, we should not worry much," veterinarian Ajit Ranade said.

Bird flu has been found in chicken and ducks in Asian countries but in Thailand, there are reports of confirmed human deaths from the bird disease. "We could face a health crisis if the virus merges with a human one and develops into an influenza pandemic," World Health Organisation officials have warned.

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