Central team takes stock of bird flu situation

Directs Alappuzha authorities to maintain strict vigil for three months in the affected areas

A Central team of experts on Saturday visited Alappuzha and took stock of the situation following the bird flu outbreak. It also reviewed the Health Department’s COVID-19 preventive measures in the district.

The team comprising Minhaj Alam, joint secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries and S.K. Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control held discussions with the Alappuzha District Collector A. Alexander and other district administration officials at the Collectorate here.

Three other experts from the Centre – Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s public health expert Ruchi Jain, National Institute of Virology, Pune scientist Shailesh Pawar and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Delhi physician Dr. Anith Jindal who visited the district on Thursday to study the bird flu (H5N8) outbreak and COVID-19 situation also joined the discussions.

The Central team directed the district authorities to maintain strict vigil for three months in the bird flu affected areas . Later, they together visited bird flu-hit areas of Karuvatta and Thakazhi and collected details from duck farmers. In Thakazhi, the avian influenza has been reported from the same area where the disease was reported in 2016. The team directed the Forest Department officials to collect samples of migratory birds and send it for testing.

District authorities informed the experts that in a bid to check the spread of the outbreak, a total of 49,958 birds, mostly ducks, were culled in the district. Besides, 32,550 eggs and 5,070 kg of feed were destroyed. District Collector Alexander said that bird culling and sanitisation of the infected areas had been completed.

The bird flu was detected from five places in Kuttanad at Nedumudi, Thakazhi, Pallippad and Karuvatta in Alappuzha district and Neendoor in Kottayam district. Earlier, authorities collected samples from eight places following the mass death of ducks in December and sent it to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, for analysis. Five samples tested positive for bird flu. Following this, authorities decided to cull birds, including domestic birds within a 1-km radius of the infected areas.

The Central team is primarily looking at the circumstances that led to the outbreak, its spread, characteristics of the virus and bird culling operations being undertaken as per the Central government guidelines. It is also evaluating the public health risk of H5N8.

Health Department officials apprised the members of the Central team about the COVID-19 situation in the district. A total of 59,974 people have so far been tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the district.

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