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Delhi gears up to tackle bird flu threat

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JAN. 28. While it may take a day or two before the Delhi Government can provide standard guidelines for treatment and precautions to be followed in the light of the outbreak of bird flu in Asia, the State Health and Family Welfare Minister, Yoganand Shastri, will hold a high-level meeting with officials of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases here on Thursday. Doctors of all major government hospitals and members of various poultry market associations in the Capital are expected to participate in the meeting which will take stock of the situation and prepare a blueprint for guidelines to be issued later this week.

"The Government is prepared to tackle any eventuality and the guidelines for the same will be prepared and circulated to health workers and health organisations within a day or two. It is also adequately prepared in terms of equipment and manpower to fight the avian flu if detected in the Capital,'' said Dr. Shastri at a press conference here today.

But it isn't only the Delhi Government which is gearing up to combat the flu. Speaking about the measures taken to check the flu in the city, the Chairman of the Shahid Ashfaqullah Khan Fish and Poultry Marketing Committee, Kamal Kant Sharma, said the number of the vets in the "mandi'' would be increased to seven by Thursday.

The mandi controls the supply of chickens and eggs to the city and is being looked after by only two vets at present. The vets monitor the health of the chickens and check the quality of the eggs distributed in the city. With the increased number of vets, Mr. Sharma hoped that greater caution would be exercised.

However, he cautioned that of the 2 lakh chickens that enter the city daily mainly from Haryana, Rajasthan and other neighbouring States, Delhiites are exposed to huge quantities of illegal meat brought into the city from nearby farms and sold with no prior medical check. `"But since no strain of the virus is being noticed in the city and import is minimal, the chickens here are still safe,'' assured Mr. Sharma.

Meanwhile, the Director of Health Services, Delhi Government, R.N. Baishya, said while the Government was monitoring the situation closely, a uniform plan to combat the virus was yet to be prepared.

Doctors in the city too complained that they were yet to get any intimation from the Government about the measures to be adopted in case the flu is detected in the city. "We hope the Government gives us a baseline to work on,'' said the Medical Director of Apollo Hospital, Anupam Sibal.

Speaking about the precautions to be adopted, the Chairman of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, S.K. Sama, said: "The `at risk' group are those in close contact with diseased chickens or their droppings or those living in houses that are in proximity to chicken stalls as also retail outlets where chickens are slaughtered. People need to remember that the influenza viruses that is causing the outbreak can be destroyed by heat and consumers should ensure that all food from poultry, including eggs, is thoroughly cooked.''

See also Page 12

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