Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has sounded an alert after 1,621 bird flu fatalities were reported in 13 districts as on date, after samples tested by the ICAR-National Institute of High Security Animal Disease (NISHAD), Bhopal, were detected positive for the avian influenza virus. On Monday alone, 441 birds were found dead and samples have been sent to NISHAD and laboratory at Pune for tests. Reports are expected in the next 48 to 72 hours.
The culling of more than 5,000 hens will begin from Tuesday in Parbhani and other districts.
Taking serious note of the arrival of bird flu in the state, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray chaired a meeting on Monday of divisional commissioners, district collectors and municipal commissioners, asking them to be vigilant in tackling the avian affliction. District collectors have earmarked inspection and surveillance zones for 1 to 10 km from the venue where deaths were reported.
The Maharashtra government will provide funds for setting up a bio-safety level-3 laboratory to ensure quick testing for bird flu, the CM Thackeray said and sought to allay concerns over consumption of poultry products in areas where no such cases are reported.
He said that funds would be made available to the animal husbandry department to set up a bio safety level-3 laboratory for fast diagnosis of bird flu.
"In areas where there are no bird flu cases, there will be no threat if eggs and chickens are consumed after cooking at temperature above 70 degrees Celsius.
"Don't spread misinformation and rumours about it," the chief minister said, directing the administration to release objective and factual information to the public with regard to the situation.
In view of the rapid spread of bird flu, the state government is expected to invoke the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, and delegate powers to the district and civic administration to take decisions locally and step up measures to contain avian influenza, which is a scheduled disease. Under this Act, reporting such a disease is obligatory for taking appropriate preventive measures against its spread.
Animal Husbandry Minister Sunil Kedar told The Free Press Journal, “There is no need to panic. There is no ban on eating chicken or eggs but sellers must be masked and gloved while handling these products and consumers must boil the chicken and eggs before consumption. Not a single human death is reported in the country; bird flu was detected in 2006 also. However, there is a distant possibility of transmission of avian influenza from birds to human beings.’’ He said the administration would take all the necessary steps to control its spread in the state.
Kedar said poultry owners and citizens have been urged to immediately report deaths of hens, crows, egrets, parrots and migratory birds to the nearby veterinary hospital and they should not touch them, or conduct post mortems or dispose of, directly. “These deaths should be immediately reported to the village officer or gram panchayat in-charge, when noticed, under the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, to avoid further spread,’’ he noted.
Earlier, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope made a strong pitch for the declaration of an alert across Maharashtra, as bird flu is dangerous with a high fatality rate of 10 to 12 per cent.