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Virus shuts out Indian poultry

Feb. 20: Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and UAE today banned poultry imports from India after reports of the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu in Maharashtra.

Nepal went a step further, activating all 24 quarantine posts along its border with India for fear the deadly virus might sneak into the tourism and aid-dependent kingdom. Pakistan ruled out sealing its borders.

The Nepal department of livestock services said the government order to discontinue imports of live birds and poultry products would remain in force till international institutions flashed the all-clear.

“We have appealed to importers not to bring poultry products from India as a precautionary measure,” Dhana Raj Ratala, an animal health department official said.

Nepal imports about half a million live birds for breeding every year, the bulk of it from Andhra Pradesh.

Nepal is being extra-cautious because the World Health Organisation has warned it of a possible outbreak of the flu. At border quarantine posts, including Tatopani in Sindhupalchowk district bordering Tibet, distribution of poultry products will be strictly monitored, an official said.

A ban on poultry imports from Thailand, Germany and Malaysia is already in place in the kingdom. Surveillance in the Koshi Tappu and Chitwan national parks has been tightened as large flocks of migratory birds from India and other countries frequent it.

Pakistan, which imports more mutton and beef than poultry from India, also placed Iran ' another country where the virus has been detected in birds ' on the ban list, and called for global co-operation to prevent the spread of the virus.

Foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam expressed concern at the outbreak, saying all possible precaution would be taken as deadly viruses do not recognise borders. Although Pakistan was so far safe, “we cannot take it for granted”, she said. The first step to prevention would be awareness, she added.

As for sealing the border with India, she said: “Not at the moment. There is no such proposal.”

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