Sunday December 17, 2017

Bird flu fears: Over 8,000 birds being culled in Tripura

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Agartala: With a fresh outbreak of bird flu in Tripura, the mass culling of more than 8,000 chicken and ducks began on Saturday in the western part of the state, officials said here.

“We have started culling of chickens, ducks and other poultry birds today (Saturday) at the government-run animal farm at Gandhigram in western Tripura. We have told officials to complete the culling drive at the R.K. Nagar government animal farm at the earliest,” Tripura government’s animal resource development department (ARDD) director Manoranjan Sarkar told IANS.

He said: “After the death of some chicken, ducks and birds we have sent samples to various local and outside laboratories.

“The National Institute of High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal has confirmed the samples from the government farm are positive for H5 strain of Avian Influenza.”

“It has been decided to immediately commence the culling of birds and destruction of eggs and feed material among other things so as to control further spread of the disease without loss of time,” said Sarkar, who is personally supervising the culling of birds.

It has also been decided that all the ducks and poultry birds would be culled within a radius of one km of the focus of infection, including the neighbouring villages.

According to the official, in addition to the culling, surveillance would be carried out over a further radius up to 10 km to monitor further spread of infection, if any.

The northeastern state of Tripura was first affected by avian influenza in April and May 2008, forcing the authorities to cull several lakh poultry birds.

The bird flu has resurfaced in the northeastern state of Tripura, bordering Bangladesh, after three years. (IANS)

(Picture courtesy: forbesindia.com)

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Journalist Killing Protest Creates Chaos, Leads to Shutdown in Tripura

Many activists of different political parties were injured in clashes as the BJP, Congress and other parties called a shutdown on Thursday to protest the killing of a journalist by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) trooper

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Journalist killing
Journalist killing leads to clashes in Tripura. IANS.

Agartala, Nov 23: Many activists of different political parties were injured in clashes while normal life was hit in Left ruled Tripura as the BJP, Congress and other parties called a shutdown on Thursday to protest the killing of a journalist by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) trooper.

“Around 25 activists of different political parties including BJP and CPI-M were injured following the clashes in various places across Tripura,” a police official said.

Police said around 600 activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties were arrested for picketing in front of government offices in different parts of the state.

Most of the government, semi-government, private offices, educational institutions, shops and business establishments were closed due to the strike called by the BJP, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura.

Banks and financial institutions were also closed in view of the shutdown, which was opposed by the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left Front.

All vehicles, except those of security forces, went off the roads. The bandh did not affect flights and train services in and out of Tripura.

“The strike was successful and spontaneous,” state BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb said.

Security forces led by senior police officials have been deployed across the state to prevent any untoward incident.

According to police, TSR Second Battalion Rifleman Nandu Kumar Reang shot dead Sudip Datta Bhowmik, 50, at Radha Kishore Nagar, 25 km from Agartala, following an altercation on Tuesday. Reang was the bodyguard of Second Battalion Commandant Tapan Debbarma. The slain journalist had gone to meet Debbarma at the battalion headquarters.

Police have arrested both the trooper and the Commandant. The Chief Judicial Magistrate here sent the duo to 10 days in police custody.

The state government, which has handed over the case to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), also constituted a four-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident.

Bhowmik, who was a reporter with “Syandan Patrika” and television channel “Vanguard”, is survived by his wife, a government teacher, and two children.

Most of the local newspapers left their editorial blank on Thursday with a thick black border to register their strong protest over the killing.

Numerous theories and claims have surfaced regarding the reason behind the journalist’s killing, the second incident involving a media man in the state. Earlier, 28-year-old TV reporter Santanu Bhowmik was hacked to death while covering an event of a tribal party at Mandai in western Tripura on September 20.

“Syandan Patrikaa” editor and Tripura Newspaper Society President Subal Kumar Dey alleged that his reporter was targeted by the commandant as the former had written many stories against him in the newspaper.

“It was a pre-planned cold-blooded assassination and they tried to hide the body to destroy evidence. Bhowmik was killed as he had exposed the TSR commandant’s illegal acts,” Dey told the media.

Police, however, claim Bhowmik had stolen an envelope containing a huge amount of money or some confidential documents from Debbarma’s table while the latter was in the toilet after their meeting in the office chamber.

Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, who is now in Delhi, has said that he will submit a report to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Bhowmik’s killing.

With the state Assembly polls due in February, the journalist’s murder has heated up the political atmosphere in the Left ruled state.

The ruling CPI-M criticised the BJP for politicising the killing of the journalist.

“The ‘bandh’ called by BJP is totally undemocratic. It would hamper normal lives and especially the annual examinations started in schools and ongoing revision of electoral rolls for the next Assembly elections,” CPI-M Central Committee member Gautam Das said.

The Congress has demanded a high-level inquiry into the murder. The BJP has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

Various journalists organisations in the northeast including the Tripura Working Journalists Association, Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) and the Agartala Press Club have also denounced the killing and demanded a probe.

The TJU has also demanded the resignation of the state Home Minister, a portfolio held by Sarkar. (IANS)

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Three Mutations if Occurred at Same Time Could Turn Bird Flu a Potential Pandemic: Experts

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Bird Flu
Health officers cull poultry at a wholesale market, as trade in live poultry is suspended after a spot check at a local street market revealed the presence of H7N9 bird flu virus, in Hong Kong June 7, 2016. VOA
  • The flu strain, known as H7N9 has infected at least 779 people in outbreaks in and around China
  • Mutations in three amino acids made the virus more able to bind to human cells, making the virus more dangerous to people
  • Wendy Barclay, a virologist and flu specialist, said the study’s findings were important in showing why H7N9 bird flu should be kept under intense surveillance

London, June 18, 2017: Scientists have identified three mutations that, if they occurred at the same time in nature, could turn a strain of bird flu now circulating in China into a potential pandemic virus that could spread among people.

The flu strain, known as H7N9, now mostly infects birds but it has infected at least 779 people in outbreaks in and around China, mainly related to poultry markets.

The World Health Organization said earlier this year that all bird flu viruses need constant monitoring, warning that their constantly changing nature makes them “a persistent and significant threat to public health.”

At the moment, the H7N9 virus does not have the capability to spread sustainably from person to person. But scientists are worried it could at any time mutate into a form that does.

To assess this risk, researchers led by James Paulson of the Scripps Research Institute in California looked at mutations that could potentially take place in the genome of the H7N9 virus.

They focused on the H7 hemagglutanin, a protein on the flu virus surface that allows it to latch onto host cells.

The team’s findings, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens on Thursday, showed that in laboratory tests, mutations in three amino acids made the virus more able to bind to human cells — suggesting these changes are key to making the virus more dangerous to people.

Scientists not directly involved in this study said its findings were important, but should not cause immediate alarm.

“This study will help us to monitor the risk posed by bird flu in a more informed way, and increasing our knowledge of which changes in bird flu viruses could be potentially dangerous will be very useful in surveillance,” said Fiona Culley, an expert in respiratory immunology at Imperial College London.

She noted that while “some of the individual mutations have been seen naturally, … these combinations of mutations have not,” and added: “The chances of all three occurring together is relatively low.”

Wendy Barclay, a virologist and flu specialist also at Imperial, said the study’s findings were important in showing why H7N9 bird flu should be kept under intense surveillance.

“These studies keep H7N9 virus high on the list of viruses we should be concerned about,” she said. “The more people infected, the higher the chance that the lethal combination of mutations could occur.” (VOA)

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Indian and Bangladeshi Officials Discuss Cross-Border Crimes and other irritants in a one-day meet

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, VOA

Agartala, May 24, 2017: Administrative and police officials of border districts in India’s Tripura have finalized strategies to deal with cross-border crimes and deal with other irritants in a one-day meet with their counterparts of contiguous Bangladeshi districts, an official said here on Wednesday.

The District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Tripura’s Sepahijala, West Tripura, and Khowai districts held a day-long meeting in Comilla in eastern Bangladesh on Monday with their counterparts from Comilla, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj, and Moulvibazar, Sepahijala District Magistrate Pradip Chakraborty told IANS.

“During the joint border conference, discussions about cross-border smuggling, drug trafficking, terrorism, management of anti-sabotage activities, drainage water treatment, problems relating to border residents have been discussed and some strategies were finalized to deal with these issues,” he said.

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Chakraborty, who was the team leader of the Indian delegation, said that sports and cultural festivals in the border districts were also discussed.

“The joint border conferences between India and Bangladesh are being held in a regular interval for positive solutions of different issues between the two countries. There were also discussions on the aim of establishing border peace through the cooperation of the district administrations of the two neighbouring countries,” he added.

Strategies to deal with border crimes, border fencing and better border management, besides issues relating to terrorism are also some times discussed in the joint conference.

Chakraborty said that in response to the demand of the Bangladesh, West Tripura district administration has initiated a process to set up a sewerage treatment plant to treat the dirty water of Howrah canal, which flows into Bangladesh.

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He also said that as part of their steps against the drug menace, Sepahijala district administration along destroyed 17 lakh ganja (cannabis) trees last year. “We have told the Bangladeshi officials to make social awareness against the use of drugs by the youth,” he said.

The Comilla meeting also discussed about land acquisition for the proposed Agartala-Akhaura 15-km rail link.

He said that the district level border conferences involving other districts of Tripura and the adjoining districts of Bangladesh were already held earlier this year and last year.

A Tripura Home Department official said that to resolve border-related problems, district-level officials from both India and Bangladesh have resumed meetings since 2015 after a gap of many years. (IANS)