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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 12:29 GMT
India bird flu tests 'negative'
An Indian poultry farm worker sets fire to bird droppings and tree leaves at a bird farm in Navapur
The clean-up has begun in Navapur after the mass slaughter of birds
Indian health officials say 94 out of 95 samples collected from people with flu-like symptoms have tested negative for bird flu.

Results from one final sample are expected on Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of birds have been slaughtered after the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain was found in Navapur town in Maharashtra state last week.

The authorities have now completely sealed the town, which has a population of 30,000, and 19 nearby villages.

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"There is no human case of avian influenza till now," a statement released by India's health ministry said.

It said one sample was still being tested.

"We are testing it further as it does not match any classical profile of the H5N1 strain," Indian Health Secretary PK Hota told the Reuters news agency.

Town 'quarantined'

In Navapur the authorities have set up checkpoints to prevent people from leaving the area and schools have been shut for a fortnight.


Trucks, buses and private vehicles are being stopped outside the town. Trains are also not stopping at Navapur station.

"It's restricted entry and exit so no new people will be allowed to enter Navapur, and people with any symptoms of fever and heavy cough and cold will not be allowed to leave," Bhushan Gagrani, a Maharashtra state official, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

On Wednesday, officials completed the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds in and around Navapur.

Health workers are now cleaning up the farms in the entire area, burning feathers and bird-droppings, reports say.

Losses

The detection of bird flu has led to sharp falls in the sale of poultry and poultry products and some countries have banned poultry imports from India, leaving the poultry industry reeling with heavy losses.

The country's parliament, military, railways and major airlines have also stopped serving chicken and eggs, even as government officials reassured people that they were safe to eat if cooked properly.

The H5N1 virus does not pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

Experts, however, fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.




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