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Bird flu alarm in Manipur

Imphal, Jan. 6: A team of veterinary experts rushed to Churachandpur district this afternoon following reports of an outbreak of suspected bird flu at Misao Lahvom, a tribal village.

The villagers reported that nearly 70 birds had died and more than 20 villagers fallen sick because of an “unknown disease”.

However, there have been no human deaths. “We received information about the death of chickens and villagers suffering from fever and headache. We are going there to verify the reports and make an on-the-spot assessment,” said the animal disease specialist of the veterinary department, Gopal Singh, before leaving here for the village.

The team carried masks and medicines for bird flu, but department officials said there was no reason to be panicky, as the villagers could be suffering from some other disease like fever or malaria.

The team will collect blood samples of affected villagers and carcasses of fowl and samples of any poultry found sick.

“We cannot say anything without testing the birds and blood samples,” Gopal Singh said.

The samples will be sent to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal and National Institute of Virology, Pune.

Official sources said 20 villagers have been brought to the government hospital at the district headquarters since Sunday.

Several other affected persons are still in the village, located nearly 8km from the district headquarters in the south.

“First, an 18-year-old girl, Nemneilam, fell sick on Sunday. Several neighbours visited her the same night. Within hours, those who visited her fell sick with the same symptoms — fever, headache and loss of consciousness,” Lungthung, a villager, said.

He also claimed that nearly 70 chickens had died in the past week.

The chief medical officer of the district, Singkhojan, visited the village today and collected 130 blood samples from the villagers.

Deputy commissioner Sumant Singh visited the district hospital this afternoon to inspect the patients. He reportedly sent an SOS to the health directorate for a medical team.

A team from Imphal is likely to arrive tomorrow.

The Zomi Economic Planning and Development Agency, an NGO based in the district, today wrote to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi, informing it of the suspected bird flu in the village and urged the institute to immediately intervene.

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