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India's Assam State Battling Serious Bird Flu Outbreak


Indian health officials have been dispatched to the northeastern state of Assam to monitor people with flu-like symptoms after an outbreak of avian influenza. A massive culling operation of poultry is under way.

India has sent avian influenza experts to the northeastern state of Assam to diagnose people who are suffering from flu-like symptoms.

About 300,000 chickens and ducks have been slaughtered in the state since late last month after the virus was detected in poultry near the region's main city of Guwahati.

The state's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, tells VOA News, it is the worst bird flu outbreak Assam has experienced. "I'm taking the matter very, very seriously about the bird flu and I'm confident we'll be able to contain it," he said.

Medical teams from New Delhi have brought with them thousands of Tamiflu capsules and surgical masks as a preventive measure.

The chief minister says numerous people complaining of flu-like symptoms have been examined and no confirmed human case of the H5N1 virus has been detected in Assam.

"It has not gone to the humans," he said. "Till today we are taking all the precautionary measures. We're involving the health department. We're involving everybody so that it will not spread to the human body."

Since the virus resurfaced in Asia five years ago, bird flu has killed more than 200 people in a dozen countries but there has never been a confirmed case in India.

An outbreak of bird flu in January in West Bengal and Bangladesh, which border Assam, led to the culling of millions of poultry.

India's health ministry has blamed the latest outbreak on migratory birds.

The sale and export of poultry has been banned in Assam. Authorities say six people have been arrested for allegedly smuggling chickens from Guwahati.

The current culling in Assam is being hampered because owners of poultry are angrily denying their birds are sick and that the compensation being offered is below the market value for chickens and ducks. Chief Minister Gogoi says the amount of compensation is being raised.

The H5N1 virus has been a major concern of health officials worldwide who warn that if it mutates or combines with seasonal influenza viruses it could trigger a pandemic that could cause millions of human deaths.


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