Thiruvananthapuram: The State government Friday decided to complete within three days culling of birds hit by H5N1, the strain of avian influenza that has killed thousands of ducks in three districts and stepped up preventive measures to check its spread to human beings.
A day after it was confirmed the virus was the cause of bird flu in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, a high-level meeting of officials of the Health and Animal Husbandry Departments, chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, took stock of the situation and decided to focus on preventive steps to check spread of disease to human beings.
Making it clear that there was no need for panic, Health Minister V S Sivakumar said health officials had examined around 14,000 persons in the affected areas and found no symptoms of the disease among them. However, as a precautionary measure, fluid samples of two persons engaged in culling operations were taken and sent for tests, he said.
Till now more than 18,000 birds, mostly ducks, had been killed, he said, adding 44 Rapid Response Force personnel from both the departments are on the field and more would be pressed into service to speed up culling operations.
Sivakumar said the compensation amount decided by the government for farmers who had suffered huge losses would be distributed from Friday.
The state government had announced compensation of Rs 100 and Rs 200 per bird of less than two months and above two months of growth respectively.
According to reports about three lakhs birds have to be culled in affected districts of Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam.
On the precautionary measures taken, he said two special wards would be opened at Alappuzha Medical College to treat any person who might be infected with the bird flu.
The minister said there was adequate stock of preventive medicines and orders had been placed for more. Nearly 10,000 health kits would be distributed to health officials and about 30,000 packs of preventive medicines would reach tomorrow, he said.
A three-member central team of experts, one of them from the National Centre for Disease Control, had visited the affected areas on Nov 26 to submit a report to the Centre.
The outbreak of the infection two weeks back had claimed over thousands of ducks in water-logged Kuttanad in Alappuzha and the adjoining areas, causing huge loss to poultry rearers, most of them medium and marginal farmers.