The outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (bird flu) has been controlled in Samdrupjongkhar according to the National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH).

The outbreak that occurred inside the Zangtopelri Lhakhang was confirmed on March 11.

NCAH programme director, Dr Kinzang Dukpa, said the disease was confirmed using real time RT-PCR at the NCAH although the disease containment measures was put in place from March 9.

The case was first reported after 36 poultry birds were found dead inside the vicinity of Zangtopelri since March 7. More than 20 poultry birds were culled to contain and prevent the spread of the disease since March 9.

“The outbreak has occurred among the poultry birds that were brought as Tshethar illegally and without knowledge of the management of Zangtopelri Lhakhang complex,” Dr Kinzang Dukpa said. “It was also found that most of the past outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza had occurred due to Tshethar birds brought in from across the Indian border.”

He added the disease is controlled within the Lhakhang complex and there are no reports of outbreaks in other areas or farms in villages in Samdrupjongkhar. No human deaths have been reported so far.

The Incident Operation Centre (IOC) based in Samdrupjongkhar is undertaking the disease containment works under the advice of the National Incident Command Committee. The health sector is also undertaking active surveillances.

Confirming the outbreak officially, the agriculture ministry yesterday notified people not to be alarmed, as the disease is controlled and all the required measures are put in place.

Dr Kinzang Dukpa said that following the outbreak, an emergency National Incident Command Committee (NICC) meeting was held on March 12 where several recommendations were made.

“In view of the risks posed by the outbreak to the public, the NICC directed the IOC to cordon the Zangtopelri premises in order to restrict the entry of public into the infected premises,” he said. “The IOC has disposed the carcass of the dead and culled poultry away from the infected premises ensuring the public health safety.”

Vehicle disinfection point was also set up at Pinchina checkpoint to prevent the spread of disease to other dzongkhags and other entry points.

Yangchen C Rinzin