Sunday, December 14, 2008

Assam ill-equipped to check bird flu?

Nearly three lakh chicken have already been culled, and more than 3.5 lakh people are under surveillance, for any signs of bird flu in Assam.

Culling of poultry is underway in Guwahati's veterinary farm which is one of the designated areas for disposal of culled birds in the city.

The state administration hoping to complete the process in the next three days.

In two weeks the bird flu virus has travelled to at least six districts across Assam and now the administration is getting worried.

"If there's an epidemic affecting human beings it's really difficult. A highly infectious disease, carries high mortality and we are not in a position to handle such an epidemic," said Dr A K Adhikari, professor of medicine, Guwahati Medical College.

Though India has not had any reported any cases of Avian influenza, at least fifteen other countries have, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), figures of the 389 cases reported worldwide, 246 have died which is a mortality rate of over 60 per cent.

Avian influenza is extremely infectious and requires isolated treatment in intensive care units. This hospital in Guwahati has been designated for bird flu cases but it has provision for only six patients and doctors admit that tthey themselves are not fully aware of the dangers and the treatment.

"Little study is done regarding bird flu in Assam. So it's natural that doctors and medical students know little about bird flu, even in textbooks there's nothing," said K K Deka, Principal, Guwahati Medical College Hospital.

The government is hoping that they will contain the spread of the virus but the recurrence of bird flu in the region is something that needs much greater attention.

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