Saturday, February 02, 2008

India : Dozens Isolated With Bird Flu Symptoms, Hundreds More Being Monitored

With cullers and health care workers in India sent into numerous 'hot zones' in the past two weeks to deal with bird flu outbreaks, and with many lacking even the most basic safety equipment (face masks, gloves) it was inevitable that some would end up catching the virus.

Indian authorities may be, and hopefully are, exercising extreme caution now, but holding dozens of people under quarantine, and monitoring hundreds more, you would expect that India will be announcing a number of human bird flu deaths in the coming days.

From Reuters :
India has put 26 people in isolation with bird flu symptoms and hundreds more people are being monitored, officials said on Friday as Pakistan and Thailand reported outbreaks of bird flu in poultry.

India is battling its worst outbreak of avian influenza, which has spread to 13 of West Bengal's 19 districts. The densely populated state is adjacent to Bangladesh, itself trying to control a major outbreak of bird flu, and has millions of backyard fowl.

This photo shows the extent of the problems regarding lack of information and education. These children are standing only a few feet back from where suited up workers are dealing with possibly H5N1 infected poultry :

More from the Reuters story :

In West Bengal, veterinary staff have culled 2.6 million birds, completing what officials said was a successful operation that had brought the bird flu situation under control.

The focus now is on hundreds of medical and veterinary workers and villagers who had come into close contact with dead or sick birds. Officials said health staff returning home after the culling operation had been asked to get themselves checked.

Dozens of isolation wards had been created in hospitals in the affected districts to handle any sudden rush of suspected human cases.

Health experts also worry about the situation in Bangladesh, a crowded country of 140 million people where bird flu has spread to nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

Livestock officials said bird flu was still spreading and had resurfaced in the Feni district southeast of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. The government has ordered culling of all chickens and ducks in one kilometre radius around affected farms.

The virus is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people reliant on the country's poultry industry and driving up food prices.

"Now we are facing a critical situation, as bird flu struck at a time when commodity prices from rice, flour to milk powder and edible oil had already nearly doubled," said Shahedul Alam, a government employee.

Egg exports from the world's second largest producer have dropped about 50 percent in the past two weeks, leaving the industry with losses of around $20 million, trade officials said.

India is now ground zero for a widespread human bird flu outbreak, or pandemic. How India deals with this crisis, and winds back the spread of the virus to more than 75% of the country, and whether or not such widespread exposure to the virus will result in many human victims, will tell us a lot about how serious bird flu may become in 2008, and how effectively current control measures and guidelines are for dealing with outbreaks.

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