Imphal : Authorities in Manipur Sunday decided to send veterinary teams to cull poultry to localities unannounced to check smuggling of birds to evade the operations following the outbreak of the avian influenza.
"Bird culling would be taken up en masse in various localities without prior announcement in order to prevent people from smuggling out their poultry," Th Dorendra Singh, Manipur's veterinary director, told IANS.
An estimated 70,000 chickens, ducks and pigeons have been culled so far after the outbreak was confirmed Wednesday.
The culling was being carried out in a five-kilometre radius from the farm at Chenngmeirong near Imphal from where the deaths were reported July 11. There are an estimated 800 poultry farms in the area.
Police and local vigilant groups have seized about 5,000 chickens since Thursday from different places, with farmers trying to smuggle out the birds to evade culling.
"Some incidents of smuggling have been detected and we are maintaining a strict vigil across the state," Manipur Inspector General of Police Dinokumar Singh said.
A total of 34 Rapid Response Teams with five members in each group led by a veterinarian are involved in the culling. Laboratory tests earlier confirmed that the dead birds had H5NI strains, which are highly infectious in nature.
Health officials said there were no immediate reports of humans contracting the virus although a massive surveillance campaign was on to ensure the safety of the locals.
"No human infection has been reported so far and we are stepping up surveillance and health checkups," Manipur Health Secretary P. Vaiphei said.
More than 20,000 people living in the affected zone have undergone health checkups so far. Some of them, with fever and other respiratory infections, had their blood tested.
"But the tests were negative and there is no need to worry," a senior health official said.
"Special isolation wards have been opened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, besides some private hospitals as precaution," he added.
There has been no reported case of bird flu in other states of the northeast, but the spread of the virus in Manipur has led to panic in the region. Authorities in the nearby states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram have sounded a general alert and banned the import of poultry.