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People with fever, common cold panic in Manipur

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Imphal : The bird flu outbreak in Manipur has led to a scare with people not willing to take a chance and rushing to doctors for symptoms ranging from common cold to fever.

"Such is the panic that my friends and relatives forced me to go to the hospital and undergo a thorough check-up as I had fever for the last two days," Basanta Singh, an education department official, told IANS.

Singh was diagnosed as suffering from common cold accompanied by fever at a private hospital.

"The number of patients coming for a check-up with ailments like common cold or minor respiratory congestions has increased manifold in the past few days after the outbreak of bird flu," said D. Singh, a doctor here.

The state government Wednesday sounded a general alert across Manipur and banned the sale and purchase of poultry. The alert came after the union health ministry and the animal husbandry department confirmed that tests carried out on chickens that died at the Chenngmeirong farm near Imphal had tested positive for bird flu.

Laboratory tests confirmed the presence of H5NI strains, which are highly pathogenic in nature.

Health officials said there were no immediate reports of humans contracting the virus.

"No human infection has been reported so far although two respiratory ventilators have arrived from the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD), New Delhi as a backup," said Manipur Health Secretary P. Vaiphei.

The Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal has also installed seven such ventilators.

"Eight more such ventilators are being requisitioned from New Delhi," Vaiphei said.

Over 25,000 people living within the five km affected zone and also hundreds more in Imphal went through health checkups, including blood tests carried out on some of them with fever and respiratory infections.

"But the tests were negative and there is no need to worry," a health official said.

"Special isolation wards were opened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and the RIMS, besides some private hospitals as precautionary measures although there are no patients admitted so far."

Authorities have so far culled about 60,000 poultry, including chickens, ducks, and pigeons, in an area of five km radius from the farm at Chenngmeirong where the deaths were reported July 11. There are an estimated 800 poultry farms in the area and more than 160,000 birds are targeted for culling.