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    Gujarat begins to cull birds after avian flu scare

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    As avian or bird flu reared its head in Gujarat after a decade, the state government sounded an alert and declared a 10-km radius around a poultry facility in Hathijan in Ahmedabad district a ‘regulated zone’ and culled over 1,500 birds till Wednesday afternoon.

    The government also placed restrictions on movement of poultry, eggs, bird droppings, farm machinery and any other equipment in the said area.

    The action comes a week ahead of the high-profile global investment summit ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 10.

    “The birds are being culled according to the World Health Organisation norms and guidelines issued by the Centre,” Animal Husbandry Minister Babubhai Bokhiria said.

    Ahmedabad District Collector Avantika Singh said 12 rapid response teams deployed at Hathijan had begun to sanitise the area. “So far, no case of H1N1 has been recorded. We will ensure that there is no impact on Vibrant (Gujarat summit),” she said.

    Earlier, samples of seven dead birds and three blood serums of live birds from a non-government organisation Asha Foundation’s Hathijan facility tested positive.

    “We had received 80 guinea fowls and 40 turkeys rescued from the Crawford Market of Mumbai. Last week, seven of the turkeys died and we informed the Animal Husbandry Department, which sent the samples to National Institute of High Security Animal Disease (NIHSAD) in Bhopal,” NGO founder Harmesh Bhatt said.

    Humans directly handling birds affected by the virus are at high risk of contracting the fatal virus.

    “Symptoms in the beginning are cough, cold or headache, if immunity level is high. However, if immunity level is low, it could lead to severe chest infection too,” Dr Bipin Patel of the Medicine Department at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad said.

    The state government has also put all beat guards in several bird sanctuaries across the state on high alert. Gujarat has five major bird sanctuaries at Nal Sarovar (Ahmedabad-Surendranagar), Thol (Mehsana), Khadija (Jamnagar), Porbandar and Kutch. During winters, these bird sanctuaries attract a lot of tourists.

    The government has instructed the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad to be prepared in case any human contracts the virus.

    “According to government instructions, we have set up a separate isolation ward with 20 beds and equipped it with latest equipment. The personnel required to manage the ward too have been provided with special suits,” Ahmedabad Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr M.M. Prabhakar said.

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