Over 1,400 poultry birds, mostly Guinea Fowls, kept at an animal care centre near the city have been culled by district administration after some of them brought here from Mumbai tested positive for avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu.
The culling operation commenced last night and ended this morning at Hathijan village on the outskirts of the city, where city-based NGO ‘Asha Foundation’ runs its animal care centre.
Looking at the gravity of the situation, as the deadly bird flu virus can spread into humans, district Collectorate has formed 12 different teams to carry out surveillance of the area to find any other infected bird.
“In all, our teams have culled and disposed of 1,481 birds kept in that centre in an operation which lasted till this morning. Another 191 birds kept in a poultry near the centre will be culled today. We have formed 12 teams to sanitise the centre and to carry out surveillance of the affected region,” Ahmedabad Collector Avantika Singh said.
The birds culled today included Guinea Fowls, turkeys and ducks.
The authorities had yesterday sealed the premises and declared 1 km area surrounding the centre as ‘affected zone’. Besides, 10 km area has been declared as ‘alert zone’ after avian influenza virus (H5N1) was detected in samples collected from the centre after the death of seven Guinea Fowls.
Since bird flu can spread and infect humans as well, the authorities have swung into action and set up an isolation ward at Civil Hospital here to treat such patients.
“As a precautionary measure to cope up with cases of bird flu among humans, we have created an isolation ward having seven rooms in the Civil Hospital. Till now, no such case has been detected. We advise people to avoid physical contact or going in crowded places,” hospital superintendent Dr M M Prabhakar said.
According to officials, the bird flu entered here through infected Guinea Fowls sent to the animal care centre from Mumbai on December 28.
“Out of these 200-odd birds, mostly Guinea fowls and also turkeys and ducks, seven Guinea fowls had died within three days of their arrival. Laboratory tests confirmed that all of them had died due to bird flu,” said deputy director of district Animal Husbandry Department, R N Patel, who has been supervising the culling and sanitising operation in Hathijan.
Apart from these 200-odd birds, around 550 Guinea Fowls were also kept here by the authorities after they were rescued on January 1 when they were being off-loaded by a truck driver near Vastral area.
Taking no chances, the authorities decided to cull all birds kept in the centre, as they shared the same enclosure.
“There were high chances of infection being spread in other healthy birds as they were kept with infected birds. Though the result of samples collected from those 550 newly arrived birds is still awaited, we had to cull all the birds,” said Patel.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Agriculture Minister Babubhai Bokhiria and Health Minister Shankar Chaudhary called a joint press conference on the issue at Gandhinagar today.
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According to Bokhiria, the state government has taken all the precautionary steps to stop bird flu from spreading into humans.
“We have secured the area surrounding the centre by culling around 1,400 birds. Our teams have sprinkled disinfectant powder in various poultry farms located in 10 km area surrounding the centre. The government has taken all the necessary steps to make sure that bird flu does not spread into humans,” Bokhiria told reporters.
Chaudhary said the bird flu has not infected any person yet.
“Out of 14 employees working at the centre, no one is found to be infected with the virus. They all are healthy. All the birds which were culled have been buried in a pit by our teams,” he said.