The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flu fighters back on alert
- Officials test machinery's readiness to tackle outbreak

Calcutta, March 15: News of the fresh incidence of bird flu in Maharashtra has prompted the government to take stock again of the machinery to fight the disease.

The directors of health services and the animal resources development department held a meeting with district officials to make sure govern- ment guidelines are followed.

'They were told to step up surveillance and monitor whether poultry farms are sticking to the guidelines we had issued earlier,' said Subesh Das, secretary, animal resources development.

So far, none of the 1,756 samples sent from Bengal has tested positive for the virus, he added. The state has already banned import of hatching eggs, some of which were procured from Maharashtra earlier.

In view of the latest Maharashtra outbreak, the Centre will 'assess the preparedness of the state government' to contain an avian flu outbreak in a video conference with Bengal officials tomorrow.

The state government has purchased 2,000 pieces of protective gear to be used for handling infected birds when their samples are collected.

'We've already dispatched supplies to Siliguri in north Bengal and Murshidabad in south while the rest are in Calcutta,' said Das.

At the meeting with dist- rict officials, the government asked them to ensure that reports on the condition of farms from the subdivisions in every district reach the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Belgachhia everyday.

'The district and subdivisional officials have been asked to keep strict watch on the movement of birds from one farm to another down to the panchayat level,' said Jahar Lal Chakrabarty, deputy director of the animal resources development department.

The Bhopal laboratory, the only one in the country that can do bird flu tests, will give equipment and other supplies to the Belgachhia lab to enable it to conduct preliminary examinations.

'This will help us determine whether the samples could test positive for avian flu or Ranikhet disease,' said Das.

The new facility is expected to be in place in about 45 days.

Shocked by the fresh outbreak just when the crisis seemed to be ebbing, poultry owners met this evening.

'If the scare returns to the markets, we'll have to stop procuring eggs. Once that stops, there will be no more rearing of birds. This will result in a massive shortage in about a week,' said Manoranjan Naskar, CEO of Sunderban Hatcheries Private Limited.

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