Situation under control: remaining fowls in infected area culled

H5N1: After confirming bird flu as the cause of what killed 16 birds below the lhengye dhensa (ministerial enclave) in Motithang on April 4, agriculture officials culled 16 more birds yesterday to prevent the spread of the disease.

National incident command committee decided to cull the remaining birds in the area after an emergency meeting yesterday.  The meeting was called after test results of samples of the dead birds from the thromde workers’ colony tested positive for bird flu or avian influenza (H5N1).

The test results from the OIE regional referral laboratory in Bhopal, India arrived on April 14.  The culled birds were covered in polythene bags and buried.

The National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH) programme director, Dr Kinzang Dukpa said that there was no need for people to panic.  “We have the situation under control and there has been no death since April 4 in the poultry farms or in the backyards,” he said.

Officials suspect that residents would have brought in some poultry or poultry products from other places along with the infection.

“Or may be someone from an infected area visited them,” Dr Kinzang Dukpa said.

Starting March 31, birds in the colony started to die, but NCAH officials said the symptoms of the birds were sub-clinical form or less severe symptoms.  Of the six households in the colony that raised chicken, 16 birds from only three died.

NCAH officials will continue decontamination measures for next one week besides the routine surveillance.  The infected area is still under quarantine.

Medical superintendent of JDWNR hospital, Dr Gosar Pemba, said four children reported symptoms, such as cough, fever, and body ache, similar to that of avian influenza yesterday.

“They were tested for bird flu and three came negative, while one was H3 and nothing to worry about,” he said. “Our concern is, if it’s transmitted to humans, they’ll have up to 70 percent chance of dying.”

He said unless people stay in constant touch with birds, the risk of transmission is minimum.

“There are health workers keeping a close watch on the 200 residents of the colony,” he said.

The colony is a squatter settlement for thromde workers.

While the thromde has issued notifications prohibiting rearing domestic animals within city bounds, the residents said they were unaware of it.

Dr Kinzang Dukpa said high-risk period of an outbreak of the flu was in winter, starting November.

There were about seven such outbreaks in the country so far.

The first case was detected in Rinchending, Chukha in February 2010.  Since then, there were outbreaks in Chukha dzongkhag’s Tsimasham, Yangbari in Mongar, Changidaphu in Thimphu, and Gelephu.  The last incident was reported on March 2013 in Gelephu.

By Tshering Palden