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Culling way short of target
A chicken being treated at a poultry farm in Karachi. Pakistan has banned imports of poultry from India. (AFP)

New Delhi, Feb. 20: Government rapid response teams could slaughter only about 80,000 chickens by this evening, compared with the minimum of 500,000 that the authorities had said would be targeted today.

The reason appeared to be the haphazard manner in which the culling was being carried out with no standard procedure being used. The farms are also scattered across a large area, posing a logistics challenge.

While the government seemed falling behind in this war to weed out bird flu-suspect chickens, it started another, trying to squelch scepticism about the arrival of the avian influenza H5N1 virus expressed by sections of the poultry industry.

In Navapur in Maharashtra, other than culling chickens, health workers screened 13,000 people. Scientists said the six people who had respiratory symptoms after handling poultry and had been placed in isolation wards two days ago do not have any signs of pneumonia ' a typical feature of H5N1 flu.

The Centre said it would ban retail sale of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir to prevent its irrational use triggered by panic. The drug will be available only through the public health system.

The head of the Indian Council of Medical Research and the animal husbandry commissioner presented details of how the diagnosis of H5N1 was arrived at by scientists at the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal.

“The diagnosis is not based on a single test but on a series of tests on several samples,” animal husbandry commissioner Shantanu Bandopadhyay said. A team of independent experts had also scrutinised and validated the results.

The National Egg Coordination Committee had said yesterday that there was no evidence of bird flu in India.

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