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    300,000 people in bird flu-hit Assam under surveillance

    Guwahati (IANS): Health authorities in Assam have placed under surveillance about 300,000 people in bird flu affected areas with reports of some 150 people suffering from fever and upper respiratory infections, fuelling fears of the deadly virus spreading to humans, officials said Friday.

    "Isolation facilities have been strengthened to admit and treat suspect cases although no cases of influenza like illness with history of contact with infected poultry have been detected so far," Parthajyoti Gogoi, regional director (northeast) of the central health and family welfare department, told IANS.

    "About 150 people were treated for fever and upper respiratory tract infections in bird flu hit areas. We have put the patients in isolation, although the symptoms do not indicate influenza like illness," he added.

    The bird flu virus has spread across six Assam districts, with authorities claiming it has assumed an epidemic proportion. More than 250,000 poultry has been culled in the past two weeks in Assam and an estimated 150,000 more are ordered to be killed.

    Health authorities have sounded a general alert fearing strains of the deadly bird flu virus spreading to humans and sparking a pandemic in the state.

    "We are really worried about the bird flu virus spreading to humans as the strains transmit rapidly. We don't know for sure if our health department would be able to cope if such a thing happens," said Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

    "We want the people of Assam to cooperate with the veterinary department so that the culling operations are carried out properly. Otherwise, we might face a disaster," he added.

    The districts hit by bird flu are Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup (Rural), Dibrugarh, Nalbari, Barpeta and Chirang.

    The poultry targeted includes ducks and chickens. Authorities have imposed a ban on sale of poultry and poultry products in most parts of Assam after the bird flu outbreak.

    "Additional logistics are being mobilised and we are monitoring the situation of a daily basis," Gogoi said.


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