Bird Flu Panic In India

The Bird Flu virus is creating a growing sense of panic in India.
For the first time, there is a real sense of fear of the killer virus, not only in the effected states of Bengal and Bihar but all over India.
 The Times Of India Editorial put it this way- An Excerpt:
More than 6,00,000 eggs are piling up in Namakkal, the poultry capital of Tamil Nadu, even as egg prices slide with the fall in demand.
Thousands of broiler chickens are waiting in the wings as poultry entrepreneurs pray for importers to resume buying. The avian flu outbreak in West Bengal has simply devastated the poultry farmer in Tamil Nadu — setting the industry back by over Rs 500 crore — though the distance between the two states is thousands of kilometres and there is absolutely no sign of the virus in the south. Meanwhile, the government of West Bengal — where the H5N1 flu virus has now infected poultry in half the state — is unable to contain the outbreak.

It is wasting precious time sparring with the Centre, which has accused the state government of not doing enough on time.
The West Bengal government must act quickly to contain the outbreak, before it spreads to neighbouring states. Five persons have been quarantined in West Bengal as they have shown symptoms of avian flu, but as yet there are no confirmed cases.

Right now the impact on the poultry industry is much more disconcerting. It is losing out on huge export orders to countries in the Gulf among others. Fear of a possible pandemic is turning consumers away from chicken and eggs.
This is a pity since they are a relatively affordable source of protein. Poultry exporters say that they want the central government to divide the country zone-wise so that there is a clear understanding of which parts are affected and which are not. Zoning would help producers label their products.

This proposal should be implemented. Zoning and labelling would help revive exports somewhat. The World Health Organisation says this is the worst outbreak of H5N1 virus in India till date.
But the infrastructure and laboratory facilities to enable documentation, testing, detection and research in both animal/bird and human samples are inadequate.

India Bird-Flu Outbreak – Is it Over or Is It Not?

It was with a big sigh of relief that all of us heard that the bird flu epidemic had officially been declared over in India.

That was back on the 14th of August.

The official notification was celebrated with almost ritual chicken parties and the local media had a great time publicizing the people enjoying their chicken meals.

Free chicken meals were provided by some local poultry farmers in celebration of the end of the Bird-Flu outbreak in the Imphal area.

There were some minor stipulations regarding the five-kilometre secure zone with epicentre at Thangmeiband, the sight of the outbreak but it was announced that poultry meat brought in from outside the Thangmeiband security zone, would be allowed to be sold.

There was also another clause forbidding sale of eggs unless they are from outside of the culling zones.

Just how it was to be determined eggs from outside Imphal and those from Imphal, was however not explained.

All in all though, every one rejoiced in the fact that the virus had gone away.

So it was with mounting concern, that we heard about the arrests of some poultry meat vendors from the poultry meat centres in and around imphal.

This area was NOT within the Thangmeiband security zone and if the Bird-Flu virus is really over, then it was perfectly legal to sell the poultry meat and eggs in that area.

So, is the Bird-Flu outbreak NOT over as yet?

Even though we were impressed by the speed with which the Federal Government and the State Government had acted to try and root out the virus, there have been many questions regarding the origins of the outbreak that have not been answered.

A news item from the IMPHAL FREE PRESS has the following vital questions that must be addressed by the Indian Authorities immediately:

1. We still do not know where and how the virus entered the state.

2. The farm where the virus was first detected, (which is now clear of the virus), got its hatchings from the government farm at Mantripukhri. But then most other farms in the state must also have got their hatchlings from the same source.

3. How did only a single farmer come to acquire the diseased birds from an apparently shared source of the hatchlings?

4. How come even other birds belonging to the same farmer which shared the same coop as the diseased ones did not have the virus?

5. There were also suggestions that the virus could have entered the state from neighbouring Myanmar which saw an outbreak of the flu a few months earlier. How did the virus manage not to leave a trail along the way and land as if delivered by helicopter at Thangmeiband?

6. If it was migratory birds that brought the virus in, why would they leave the virus only at a chicken farm, that too in the heart of Imphal city which is not exactly a roosting place for wild birds?

It is of course good to remain vigilant against the H5N1 virus and we commend the Indian Government’s efforts in this respect as you can see from the following.

Ms. Upama Chaudury, the Joint Secretary of the Federal Agriculture Ministry of India, has reportedly asked the State Govt to heighten vigil against bird flu in and around Loktak lake as many migratory birds are expected to arrive in the lake soon.

Informing that the Forest and Wild Life Department has no active surveillance plan of its own, the Joint Secretary asked the State Government to formulate a surveillance plan.

Citing the complexities encountered during the containment drive against bird flu in Imphal town recently, she further suggested regulation on rearing poultry birds in urban area.

That is fine, however, full transparency in the efforts in the fight against the killer virus is also very important, as this fight involves not only the Government, but also the poultry farmer, the vendor of poultry meat as well as other citizens.


India wants its women to be Aware of Bird-Flu.

India had one of the first women Prime Ministers in the world.

In India’s ancient history of more than 10,000 years, women have been known to be in powerful and vitally important positions in society.

Yet it is a fact that most of the women in India today, are not educated and are not able to fully develop their potential.

The Government of India and specifically the State Government of Manipur, has now decided that it is important to make the women of rural India  aware of the dangers that are present in the matter of the deadly Bird-Flu virus.   

Underlying the importance of women in Manipuri society in taking up various social issues, All Manipur Nupi Marup organised a State Level Awareness programme on Bird flu for womenfolk at State Museum Hall, Imphal today.

Health and Family Welfare Minister P Parijat attended the inaugural function of the awareness programme as chief guest and president of Nupi Marup I Ibeni as functional president.

Additional Director of Health Th Biren Singh was the resource person of the awareness programme attended by around 150 women coming from different parts of the State.

 Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi


Office of Registrar General of India.

India “Surrounded” by Countries with Bird-Flu.

Mr Naresh Dayal, the Federal Health Secretary in the Government of India, worries about  the possibility of the Bird-Flu virus mutating in to a human to human virus.

“Worldwide, human-to-human transmission is feared. We have to be able to tackle that if, God forbid, it starts,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

Mr Dayal was very concerned about the fact that the counties neighbouring India seemed to have “uncontrolled” outbreaks of Bird-Flu.

“We are surrounded by countries with uncontrolled outbreaks in poultry and birds,” Dayal told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “And further, there is Vietnam and Indonesia.”                                              

Indonesia and Vietnam — both within a couple of hours flying distance from some Indian cities — have reported human deaths from bird flu this year.

Indonesia says it has 83 confirmed bird flu deaths since 2003, the highest for any nation.

In addition, Myanmar as well as Bangladesh, another two of India’s neighbour countries, have reported cases of Bird-Flu. 

India has stepped up vigil on its borders with Myanmar as well as Bangladesh, said Dayal, adding that New Delhi had offered to help its two neighbours fight the disease.

“We are willing to provide help to Bangladesh. It is also in our own interest,” he said, adding India was also ready to help Myanmar fight the virus if requested.

New Delhi has reported no human case from its three major outbreaks in poultry since 2006, but health officials are worried about its northeast region, which also borders China, where 16 human deaths have been reported since 2003.

Authorities are increasing the number of laboratories that can test for bird flu in humans.

Besides the three existing facilities, New Delhi will set up a new laboratory in Assam as well as Kolkata, Dayal said.


India Bird-Flu, 4 Children test Negative, but a further 51 are Quarantined.

A huge sigh of relief went through a Fifth of the entire human race, as the four children suspected of a Bird-Flu infection were declared free of the virus in India.

Throat swab and tissue samples of the four boys (all under 14) had been sent for testing, but no sign of bird flu was found.

“They are negative,” said Vineet Chawdhry, a joint secretary in India’s health ministry.


Thousands of people in Manipur state in India’s northeast were also checked by health officials after the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in chickens on a small poultry farm.

However, the authorities have quarantined a further 51 people also from Manipur.

“Since all these people had worked in culling or sanitising operations or monitoring people’s health around the affected poultry farm they have to be quarantined and monitored,” said Vineet Chawdhry.

Most had complained of being “unwell”, he added, but did not say whether any had flu-like symptoms. All 51 were on Tamiflu, the popular drug to prevent and treat bird flu, as a precaution, the health ministry said.

Hundreds of “cullers” were involved in killing nearly 300,000 fowl over the past week in Manipur, a state bordering Myanmar that saw two outbreaks of bird flu in chickens in July alone.

The culling, which took place within a 5-km (3-mile) radius around the affected poultry farm near Imphal, capital of Manipur, ended on Thursday.

Health officials have completed checks of around 235,000 people in the area, but said they would closely monitor the situation.



The strange death of Bird-Flu rapid response team member.

We have previously addressed in this blog, the “Cull” of the poultry being carried out within the quarantine zone set up by the Manipur State Government around the farm in Chingmeirong in Imphal East, where the recent outbreak was discovered.

As reported, there have been many arrests made of the poultry farmers within the zone who were suspected of trying to flee the quarantine zone with their live stock.

To add to this real human drama, we now have a strange death of one of the “Cullers” responsible for the destruction of the poultry within the quarantine zone.

Disease Prevention Area

A member of the rapid response team of Manipur’s veterinary department, which has been engaged in culling poultry since bird flu was detected in the state last week, died today after reportedly consuming formalin, a solution being used to spray the burial sites of culled birds.

Salam Babuyaima, a 53-year-old grade IV employee of the department, collapsed around 8.30am, when the team was preparing to depart for the day’s culling operations in Imphal East and West districts. He died at Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital an hour later.

Veterinary and health officials, who carried out routine health check-ups of the team this morning, ruled out any connection between his death and avian influenza.

The health officials said Babuyaima was found fit during the check-up.

Culling of poultry started on Thursday, following confirmation the previous day that more than 100 birds had died of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at a farm in Chingmeirong in Imphal East.

Officials said that before leaving for work today, Babuyaima was asked to keep an eye on the materials collected by his team for the operations.

“He was holding an 800ml bottle of formalin and spray equipment. The team went down with the items from the quarantine while the grade IV employee lagged behind. On being asked, he said he had consumed formalin,” an official statement said.

Babuyaima collapsed on his bed in the quarantine ward and was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he died.

The formalin he consumed was highly concentrated, an official said.

Veterinary and health officials informed chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh who has decided that the post-mortem report would be made public to dispel any fear regarding the cause of the death.

Veterinary director Th. Dorendro Singh also said the post-mortem report would be made public.

Officials are tight-lipped about why the employee consumed formalin. Investigations are on. Culling operations continued today in spite of the incident, however, progress was slow.

While 16,000 poultry were killed by 3.30pm yesterday, only 9,800 were killed by the same time today.

Here is alink to the news Item from the The Telegraph:

Bird-Flu “Cull” in India, destroys Livelihoods.

The virus recently detected in Manipur, North East India, is one of the most worrisome H5N1 strains, which can in rare cases, infect and kill humans, usually those who spend a lot of time around infected birds.

It is understandable therefore, that the State Government has ordered a strict quarantine zone around the infected area.

The authorities have decided to destroy all chickens and eggs within the said quarantine zone.

Health workers have already killed around 25,000 chickens and destroyed thousands more eggs since Thursday to try and contain the virus. They plan to cull 150,000 in all within the quarantine zone by next week.

That is I suppose again the right thing to do, from the point of view of the Government.

For the local farmers though, who are going to lose all of their poultry stock, this is nothing short of disastorous.

It is almost impossible for the western mind, to imagine the kind of poverty that exists in these rural areas.

In most cases, the live stock is the only source of income for these very very poor farmers.

The state government has said it will give farmers 40 rupees (about 60 Cents) for every one of their chickens it has to cull.

However, such declarations by the Government, of compensation for the culling of any live stock, are no comfort for the poor farmers who regularly deal with the official red tape, bureaucracy and corruption.

No wonder that unhappy at the thought of their livelihood being destroyed, some poultry farmers have been trying to escape with their flocks before the “culling party” arrives.

More than a dozen farmers have so far been detained in local police stations until Saturday evening, by which time their flock will be dead, police said.

I dare say some of the fleeing farmers may have escaped capture!

Not sure where my sympathies lie in this case!!!

Here is a link to the news item from Reuters: