India moves against Tripura bird flu

The Indian government has ordered a massive culling and containment operation to prevent a bird flu epidemic at a farm in its Eastern state of Tripura from spreading.

The health department of the government said bird samples from the State Poultry Farm, Gandhigram, Agartala have tested positive for the H5 virus, commonly known as the Bird Flu virus.

The Bird Flu, which emerged on the world scene through an outbreak in South East Asia in 2006, has already killed more than 300 people, or about 60% of the reported infections.

The flu virus, originally confined to birds, is expected to have mutated into a human-lethal form. It is currently expected to spread primarily from bird to bird or bird to human. Cases of Bird Flu have been on the decline since 2006, with only around 40 cases reported in 2010.

India had escaped large human casualties, but had suffered economically during the first major outbreak in 2006 — both in terms of culling of chicken as well as through a dip in travelling and tourism. The Poultry Federation of India said the 2006 outbreak was causing a loss of Rs 200 crore a day, including losses suffered by input suppliers, transporters, pharma and others.

It seemed to be ready to prevent a repeat, according to the government statement.

“It has also been decided that the entire poultry will be culled within a radius of 3 kms. of the focus of infection viz. State Poultry Farm, Gandhigram, Agartala. In addition to the culling strategy, surveillance will be carried out over a further radius up to 10 kilometers,” it said.

Surveillance is being intensified and the state will furnish a daily report on the control and containment operations, it added.

It has also ordered a ban on movement of poultry products in the infected area, closure of poultry and egg markets and shops within a radius of 10 km from the site and restricting access to wild and stray birds to the area.

The government will also officially notify international organizations such as the World Health Organization, it added.