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Countrywide poultry checkup in Pakistan

By Staff
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Islamabad, March 1 (UNI) Pakistan formed special teams to check poultry stock throughout the country to counter potential bird flu after two cases of low intensity were reported from the polutry farms in North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP).

Hours after the authorities in NWFP culled about 25,000 birds and destroyed 11,000 eggs, Federal Health Minister Mohammad Nasir Khan told reporters here that Pakistan had procured 10,000 doses of Tamiflu and the World Health Organisation had promised a steady supply of the drug to combat any bird flu outbreak.

He said Health and Agriculture Ministries had formed special team to check the extent of the occurrence of avian flu virus in poultry stock.

He was talking to reporters after launching the ''National Plan of Action for the Control of Micro-nutrient Malnutrition in Pakistan'' yesterday.

The government had detected H5 strain of the virus in the two poultry farms in the NWFP that was not harmful but there was no confirmation if it was combined with the N1 strain yet, the Minister said.

Claiming that the arrangements had been made to meet any emergency, Mr Khan said the government had sealed off the poultry farms where avian flu virus was reported.

The samples had been sent to the World Reference Laboratory in the UK for confirming the presence of N-type virus, he added.

The Minister, however said, ''The Prime Minister and I regularly eat chicken at lunch'', adding people should eat chicken after properly cooking it.

Meanwhile, a team of the WHO epidemiologists visited Charsadda and Abbottabad towns in NWFP and collected blood samples of people working in poultry farms, which were isolated on Monday following reports of cases of avian flu.

The WHO team also collected samples of dead chickens, which will be tested at the National Institute of Health here, to determine if they were infected by H5NI and H7N3 strains of bird flu virus that could be transmitted to humans.

The Dawn newspaper quoted official sources as confirming that the WHO team, which is accompanied by Health Ministry officials, started collecting blood samples of poultry workers and samples of chickens from different poultry farms in the NWFP.

The Health Directorate in Peshawar, at the same time, issued a press release which confirmed the prevalence of H5 virus in birds culled in some poultry farms in Charsadda and Abbottabad.

It did not confirm speculations about the virus contaminating other poultry farms.

The press release also informed that an emergency had been declared in all government hospitals and as a precautionary measure, special wards had been allocated for treating patients infected by the virus.

A special cell had been set up at the provincial Health Directorate to work with different health departments, the press release said.

It cautioned against shifting of chickens or other birds during a flap of bird flu or influenza.

However, sources told Dawn that a few months ago bird flu had been detected in poultry farms on the outskirts of Rawalpindi during a survey conducted by the Punjab Poultry Department.

A report had been submitted to the Ministry of Health and other departments concerned but no action was taken, the sources said, adding that teams of the department had found the birds suffering from flu, reddish eyes and runny nose.

UNI XC VJ PC1648

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