Poultry: A suspected avian influenza, also known as bird flu, in Motithang, Thimphu, killed 16 chickens last week.

However, there has not been any death since April 4.   Of the six households in the colony that reared chicken, birds from only three died.  Officials from the health and agriculture ministries and police had an emergency meeting at the agriculture minister’s office yesterday to discuss the necessary measures to be taken ahead.

Sporadic deaths of birds were reported on April 3 from the colony below the ministerial enclave where Thimphu thromde workers live.

National Centre for Animal Health program director, Dr Kinzang Dukpa, said that initial testing of samples tested positive.  Following international protocol, the samples were sent to the OIE regional referral laboratory in Bhopal, India, for confirmatory testing.

“We expect the results in four days,” he said.

Dr Kinzang Dukpa said necessary control measures were in place.

“We carry out daily disinfecting and decontamination measures, besides surveillance of nearby poultry farms,” Dr Kinzang Dukpa said.

“Movement of poultry and poultry products from the area is now restricted, and the residents are also asked to limit going out,” he said.  NCAH officials built a coop in the area and collected the birds to observe for more symptoms or casualties.

Unlike past cases, the samples from dead birds showed less severe symptoms or sub-clinical form.

“There’s no clear cut symptoms,” the centre’s director said.

One of the residents, Pem, lost her five hens. “While one died of diarrhoea, the rest were well in the evening but died the next day,” she said.

Pem’s neighbor, Kezang Dorji, a Thimphu thromde employee, said his 10 birds were fine.

“I don’t know how the other birds were infected, but such a thing hasn’t happen in the last 10 years since I started rearing the birds,” he said.  Some have even consumed the dead birds, but nothing happened to them.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said inspections of those poultry farms in the city did not show any signs.

“Livestock officials are visiting the place and looking for signs, which, until today, were negative, so we can’t say if there’s an outbreak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the emergency meeting decided to continue the control measures, while waiting for the results from India.

“Should there be any new cases, we’ll meet again and decide further actions,” Dr Kinzang Dukpa said.

By Tshering Palden