March 15: Maharashtra has reactivated the bird flu drill of culling and door-to-door searches after samples of four chickens tested positive in Jalgaon, separated by one district from the first outbreak belt in Nandurbar.
Culling operations to destroy an estimated 70,000 birds began this evening within a 10-km radius of four villages in Jalgaon district.
Scientists have detected avian influenza H5N1 in samples of four chickens from a cluster of villages in Jalgaon, but they are unsure whether the fresh outbreak is related to the one at Navapur in Nandurbar last month.
Most of the 70,000 chickens are in backyard poultry farms in Jalgaon, which pose a greater logistical challenge than did Navapur, animal husbandry officials said in Delhi.
The officials said they did not have an estimate of the number of birds that had died in what appears to be an outbreak in a cluster of four to six villages in the district.
“Getting information is difficult because each household might have two or three chickens in their backyard and mortality data is harder to get in such circumstances,” said Shantanu Bandopadhyay, the animal husbandry commissioner.
When chickens first began dying in these villages, district authorities collected samples and sent them to the Bhopal laboratory where they had to wait in a growing queue of thousands of samples coming in from across the country.
The laboratory confirmed diagnosis of H5N1 from the Jalgaon samples on Monday night, Bandopadhyay said. He said it is unclear whether this outbreak was related to the one in Navapur, 200 km from Jalgaon. Dhule district stands between Navapur and Jalgaon.
He said the backyard poultry was unlikely to spread the infection because most of the chickens were consumed within the villages.
The culling operations in Jalgaon are expected to be more efficient, thanks to “lessons learnt” from the first exercise in Navapur. Instead of non-stop 10-to-12-hour activity, 60 rapid response teams are likely to work in shifts of four to six hours.
Health workers have begun door-to-door inspections, too, looking for people with flu-like symptoms. In Navapur, around 100 people were examined but all tested negative.
Jalgaon collector Vijay Singhal said the 10-km-radius surveillance area covers 173 villages and an estimated human population of 4 lakh.