KARACHI, Feb 1: Hundreds of birds at a poultry farm in the Gadap area of the city were culled on Friday following confirmation of reports of an outbreak of bird flu.

Personnel of the poultry and livestock and agriculture departments of the provincial and city governments killed the birds and buried them in a dry well in a farm on the instructions of Sindh Poultry Director Dr Ali Akbar Soomro.

Dr Soomro told mediapersons in the afternoon that the National Reference Laboratory (animal testing) of Islamabad had informed him that the Newcastle disease virus and bird flu virus of H5N1 strain had been found in the samples of birds taken on Jan 28.

He said 1,000-1,200 birds had been culled by suffocating them in large plastic bags containing chemical. A case for compensation for the loss incurred by the owners of the farm would be prepared soon, he added.

Dr Soomro said that the culling was the first of its kind in the province over the past three years. The owners claimed that over 10,000 birds had died and the number increased to 12,000 after Friday’s culling. However, livestock officials said 4,000-4,500 birds had died over the past week.

Dr Soomro said that it had been established that bird flu virus prevailed in the environment of Gadap and warned that there were chances of a further spread if adequate precautionary measures were not taken by field officers, surveillance teams and poultry farmers.

Three workers who handled the birds before and after the culling were sent to the isolation ward of the Civil Hospital Karachi for monitoring.

One of the workers, Mohammad Aslam, said he had been working at the farm for about three months and had complaints of pain without flu.

Dr Aslam Pervez, the focal person of the district government on bird flu in humans, said Tamiflu pills were available for people suffering from the disease.

“We plan to set up isolation wards in some hospitals as soon as necessary equipment are received from Islamabad and personnel trained to handle affected people,” he added.

The H5N1 virus has been circulating in Asia since 1997 and it first appeared in Pakistan around two years ago. According to experts, in its present form bird flu is transmitted only through people having contact with infected birds. At least 208 people died from the virus in 2007, including Pakistan’s first case confirmed by health officials.

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