Imphal/New Delhi, July 25: Barely three months after the Manipur government set up a special cell to monitor the entry of poultry products from avian flu-hit neighbours Bangladesh and Myanmar, Imphal today announced an outbreak of the disease in a small farm in the Imphal East district.
The outbreak, confirmed by Th. Dorendro Singh, director of the animal husbandry and veterinary department, is thankfully confined to a small firm — Chingmeirong — in Imphal East.
“The spread of the H5 strain of avian influenza in a small poultry farm located at Chingmeirong in Imphal East district has been confirmed. Blood samples collected from the farm tested positive at the Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal and National Institute of Virology, Pune,” the director said today.
A senior animal husbandry scientist told The Telegraph that tests on seven out of eight dead birds have confirmed that they were infected with an H5 strain of avian influenza.
The other genetic fingerprint that defines the most deadly avian influenza — H5N1 — has yet to be confirmed, he said.
“We have not yet confirmed the N1 component,” said Shantanu Bandopadhyay, animal husbandry commissioner. “But the mortality rate suggests a highly pathogenic virus,” he said.
Earlier this year, Indian officials had expressed concern that both Bangladesh and Myanmar have been fighting H5N1 outbreaks at a slow pace. Chingmeirong is nearly 200km from both Myanmar and Bangladesh. “We can’t say anything now about how it’s come there . . . we’ll need to work this out,” Bandopadhyay said.
The 21 family members in a cluster of three houses and veterinary staff that had come into contact with the birds on the affected farm have received Ostelamivir, a drug that is used as a “chemoprophylactic” to prevent the disease.
The veterinary department collected blood samples of chickens from the farm after 132 of the 144 chickens died within a span of four days earlier this month. The rest were culled and buried.
However, Dorendro Singh said the blood samples collected from other farms within a 5-km radius of Chingmeirong tested negative. The disease is confined to only Chingmeirong farm, he stressed.
Before the announcement, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh held a high-level meeting with officials of the health and veterinary department at his office to review the action plan to tackle the flu outbreak.
Dorendro Singh said the culling of poultry within a 5-km radius of Chingmeirong farm would start tomorrow. Twenty teams of Rapid Response Team (RRT) comprising five personnel each would be deployed to cull the birds. Medical teams will also begin house-to-house search in the affected area for influenza-like symptoms, each health worker covering 100 houses.
The culling process would cover over 100 villages and more than 1.5 lakh poultry would be culled. The operation is likely to take about five days. The Union ministry of health has airlifted 5,000 capsules of Oseltamivir, 2,000 sets of personal protective gear and 1,000 masks to Imphal.
Chief secretary Jarnail Singh notified this afternoon that the government has banned the sale of poultry and eggs within a 10-km radius of the farm. It has also ordered closure of shops in the area.
A control room has been opened at the state veterinary office for the culling operation as well as surveillance, in addition to co-ordinating with the state health department.
The state veterinary department has opened a treatment centre at the head-office for personnel who would be taking part in the culling operation, while the state health department has kept 10 beds reserved at the government-run Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital for treatment of patients if affected by the disease.