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India Awaits Test Results To Confirm The Bird Flu Virus In Humans

The result of the blood samples, taken from the people of Nandurbar district, is yet to confirm whether the H5N1 strain of avian influenza virus had spread to humans, even as the culling of thousands of birds goes on unhindered. //

Officials said the massive culling exercise in the region that reported India's first case of the global disease was likely to be completed by early Thursday.

India's first confirmed case of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza was reported Saturday from Navapur village in Nandurbar district, some 300 km from here, after tests were conducted on thousands of dead chicken.

Authorities say they have not come across any case of human avian influenza in the country.

"We had sent over 100 blood samples from the suspected people in the Nandurbar district in the last couple of days. The results are expected soon," said a health department official on telephone from Navapur.

"Once we get the test results, we will decide the next course of action. As of now there is no confirmed case of human avian influenza anywhere in Maharashtra," said the official.

The official said a total of 12 people have been kept under medical observation in Nandurbar hospitals after they reported flu-like symptoms. The door-to-door survey in the affected region had also been intensified.

The culling of birds is continuing in Nandurbar, with the authorities extending the area marked for the exercise as a "precautionary measure".

Earlier, the government had decided to cull all birds within a radius of three kilometres of the area where the infected birds were found. The area has now been extended to 10 km.

Over 60 teams of doctors and over 100 poultry workers are carrying out mass culling operations wearing masks and other protective gear. Over 150,000 birds have been exterminated.

The government has offered farmers compensation of Rs.40 for every bird culle d. Poultry farmers say this is too meagre to help them tide over their massive losses.

Known to spread to human beings, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has resulted in nearly 100 human casualties across Southeast Asia, mostly in Vietnam. It has so far been reported in seven countries.

India is the world's sixth largest producer of eggs and the fifth largest producer of broiler chicken. It produced 43 billion eggs and 1.7 billion broilers in 2005, according to industry estimates.

--Edited IANS

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