The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rumour virus has a free run

Navapur, Feb. 22: A new virus is running wild in Navapur: rumour.

“Navapur is going to be sealed tomorrow. Andar ka khabar hain (it’s inside information),” a photo studio owner says in a conspiratorial tone.

A few minutes later, another tidbit ' someone has heard stray dogs have dug up the remains of buried chickens and contaminated a river that provides water to the town.

The studio owner was referring to restrictions ' ordered yesterday but few seem to be aware of that ' on the movement of people to and from the town. The collector’s order was not intended to seal the town but to prevent the spread of the flu.

The order from the collector of Nandurbar, within which Navapur falls, said passenger movement would be restricted at the railway station. Only seven express trains and a few local trains pass through the station.

However, not a single policeman was posted at the railway station. A few posters warning passengers of the dangers of bird flu were pasted at platform entrances, which no one noticed.

When the Chennai-Ahmedabad Navjeevan Express chugged in, a feeble announcement was made, asking passengers to wear protective gear if they step down.

A signboard outside a food court at a Vadodara mall on Wednesday. (AFP)

On the road, police were out in force but they were concentrating more on preventing the media from covering the culling than advising people what to do if they enter the town.

In Khakharfalia village, barely 3 km from Navapur, no health survey officials had arrived to inform villagers of precautions they need to take.

Suman, a poultry farm worker, smiled and described how she had disposed of dead chickens a few days ago at Don poultry farm where she worked. Suman was not aware that she could be infected but she had heard that no one should eat chicken or meat due to a “murgi ka beemari”.

In villages within the 10-km radius ' the official surveillance zone ' children chased chickens running helter-skelter when culling teams descended on backyard poultry farms.

A manual drafted by the animal husbandry department states that children should be kept away from any such activity to avoid infection. Some teams spent nearly four hours on a single culling operation, running after the hens.

Notice snub

Venkateshwara Hatcheries has said it is not legally bound to reply to a notice on the supply of birds that tested positive in Navapur.

The notice was issued to a poultry farm not owned by the company, the hatchery said.

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