Authorities in Assam state have culled an estimated 40,000 poultry birds to prevent the spread of avian influenza from neighbouring West Bengal and have sent samples for tests to the specialised laboratory in Bhopal.
"Teams from the state veterinary and animal husbandry department have culled around 40,000 poultry in the two border districts of Dhubri and Kokrajhar. Another 80,000 more are expected to be culled by Sunday," Veterinary Director A. K Kataki said.
As many as 26 Rapid Response Teams equipped with culling gear are on the job but the task has been made difficult because the targeted poultry are mostly backyard birds and not part of organised poultry farms, requiring personnel to visit homes of villagers.
The authorities have already paid an estimated Rs.700,000 to the affected farmers and villagers as compensation.
Veterinarians have collected samples for avian influenza tests to be conducted at the High-risk Security Diseases Laboratory at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
The culling is being carried out in about 40 villages within a five-kilometre radius of Assam's border with West Bengal since Saturday. The poultry targeted in the two bordering districts of Assam's Kokrajhar and Dhubri includes ducks and chickens.
Health authorities have taken precautionary measures for the personnel involved in the culling process.
"All the veterinary personnel involved in the culling process are being administered the antiviral drug Tamiflu as a precautionary measure," Parthajyoti Gogoi, regional director (northeast) of the central health ministry based in Guwahati, told IANS.
The federal health ministry last week sounded an alert in Assam by asking authorities to cull birds in villages bordering the bird-flu hit eastern state of West Bengal as a precautionary measure.
Bird flu has spread to 13 of West Bengal's 19 districts since the outbreak was confirmed more than two weeks ago.
Laboratory results have confirmed that the deadly H5N1 strain is responsible for the outbreak in at least two of the districts.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) fears that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans and spark a deadly pandemic.
Last year, an outbreak of avian influenza in the northeastern state of Manipur led to the culling of some 200,000 birds.
The poultry business has already been hit in Assam after the outbreak of bird flu in West Bengal. Assam and other northeastern states have already banned the import of poultry from there.