Bird flu put 51 in quarantine in Manipur

India's health ministry says 51 people in Manipur have been quarantined following an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of influenza in chickens last month in the northeastern Indian state.

According to a senior official all of them had worked on the culling or sanitising operations or had been involved in the monitoring of people's health around the affected poultry farm.

Vineet Chawdhry from the health ministry says most had complained of being unwell, so had to be quarantined and monitored as a precaution.

It is unclear whether any had flu-like symptoms but all have been given the drug Tamiflu, to prevent and treat bird flu, says the health ministry.

The slaughter of more than 330,000 chickens, ducks and pigeons involved hundreds of cullers last week in Manipur, a state bordering Myanmar that saw two outbreaks of bird flu in chickens in July this year.

The culling took place within a 5-km radius around the affected poultry farm near Imphal, and health officials have completed checks of around 235,000 people in the area which is being closely monitored.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to date the H5N1 virus has killed at least 192 people out of 319 who have been affected since late 2003.

Health experts remain concerned that the virus could mutate into a form which is easily transferred between humans, triggering a pandemic.

Although four boys who had been suffering from fever after handling dead or sick poultry in Manipur, have been cleared by the authorities, officials in Tripura remain on alert after around 500 chickens died in a commercial poultry farm in a district bordering Bangladesh, where avian flu has spread to a number of areas this year.

Blood and tissue samples have been sent for testing, but it is suspected the deaths may have been caused by an infectious bursal disease, a viral illness, along with coccidiosis, a parasitic illness found in animals.

Western India had two major outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in chickens last year, but has not yet reported any human case.

Thirty-four rapid response teams led by veterinarians were involved in the cull after laboratory tests confirmed the birds were carrying the highly pathogenic H5NI strain.

Officials from the Animal Disease Control program in Manipur say there have been no fresh reports of bird flu reported from Manipur but the state remains under strict surveillance.

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