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Delhi feverish after Karachi flu

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Even as a frisson of fear coursed through the capital on reports of a breakout of bird flu in Karachiís poultry farms, the government scrambled to slam the lid on the possibility of a chicken-vectored epidemic in the country.

The department of animal husbandry and dairying under the agriculture ministry has sent out letters to state governments suggesting a plan of action to head off an outbreak.

Until now, there has been no reported case of bird flu in the country. Officials in Pakistan confirmed two days ago that a virus strain had killed two million chickens in the Sindh province, where 10 to 25 per cent of the poultry stock has been affected.

The first step taken by the department of animal husbandry has been to try and insulate poultry farms along the border with Pakistan.

If an outbreak is suspected, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute and all regional laboratories have been asked to test the samples and send the morbid material to the high security Animal Disease Lab at Bhopal for confirmation.

All states have been sent guidelines for prevention and, in the event of an outbreak, for immediate action.

The guidelines include immediate halt to the entry of new birds in the flock from outside sources and strict regulation of entry of personnel, material, visitors and vehicles to an area affected by the disease.

The guidelines state that culled birds and droppings should be buried deep or incinerated within the affected area.

No exchange of any material and personnel between different farms in the affected area should be carried out. All farms should adopt a vigilance system for early detection and follow-up action.

If the vigilance team detects a suspected case, it should be reported to the farm authority and to the state veterinary department immediately.

In the event of detection of infection in the flock, the entire operation of the farm in terms of marketing of birds and eggs should be stopped completely till the disease is eradicated.

State officials have been asked to gear up the emergency response system by activating the entire machinery.

The state governments have also been asked to draw up a plan to monitor and regulate the movement of birds from one farm to another and inter-state movement.

The government is also setting up an expert committee of officials from the department of health and the Institute of Communicable Diseases. It will take preventive measures and ensure surveillance. The committee will keep a watch on domesticated fowl to detect if there is a sudden increase in the number of deaths.

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