July 27: Manipur today shifted the focus of its campaign against bird flu to the human population within a 5-km radius of the poultry farm struck by the deadly H5N1 avian virus.
The health directorate sent 40 medical teams to examine people and collect blood samples from those living in and around Chingmeirong, the Imphal suburb where the affected farm is located. Health workers did not find a single instance of bird flu passing to humans — the H5N1 strain can be fatal — in the affected zone.
All the 234 blood samples tested till this evening were found negative for bird flu.
Health secretary P. Vaiphei said 59 people were found to have acute respiratory infection or fever caused by viruses other than the avian flu strain. “As many 3 lakh people of 60,000 households will be covered during the 10-day screening campaign. We have so far checked 10,251 people from 1,754 households.”
The veterinary department culled 16,000 chickens on the second day of its operation in 32 villages of Imphal West and East districts.
Another 34 villages will be covered tomorrow. It is estimated that nearly 1,60,000 chickens in 128 small poultry units within the 5-km zone of the infected farm at Chingmeirong would need to be culled. The “hot zone” also has a population of about 28,000 ducks.
Veterinary director Th. Dorendro Singh said 20 per cent of the 86 villages selected for the culling had already been covered and the situation was well under control.
Yesterday, 9,472 chickens were killed within the 5-km radius of the Chingmeirong farm.
“We had sent only 17 rapid-response teams on the first day. We increased the strength of the five-member teams to 33 today. We hope to complete the culling operations within the next four days,” an official at the bird flu control room said.
Veterinary workers were asked to keep an eye on poultry traders, some of who allegedly smuggled out chickens yesterday to districts where the sale of birds has not been banned yet.
The government clamped a ban on sale of poultry only within a 10-km radius of Chingmeirong.
Poultry carcasses were collected from Churachandpur district later for laboratory tests.
In neighbouring Nagaland, the administration rolled out a series of measures to minimise the chances of avian flu sneaking in.
The joint director of the veterinary and animal husbandry department, Dr L.S. Moses, said the ban on import of poultry and pigs from Manipur and Myanmar would remain in force indefinitely.
Taking the cue from Manipur, the department formed 99 rapid response teams and ordered fogging (disinfecting) of all vehicles coming into Nagaland from Manipur at Khuzama checkpoint. Additional personnel were deployed to assist veterinary staff at Khuzama.
Assam, too, readied itself for a possible emergency. Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his department was taking all the necessary precautions.
The south Assam district of Cachar, bordering Manipur, banned the entry of poultry from that state.