More than 3,500 chickens have died during the past 72 hours since Saturday in a private poultry farm at Dulaljot village in Matigara in Siliguri sparking bird flu scare in the area at a time when thousands of poultry birds are affected with the deadly disease in bordering districts in Bangladesh.
Samples of the carcasses were sent to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal to ascertain whether the birds indeed died of bird flu.
Animal Resource Development Minister Anisur Rahaman, however, ruled out bird flu saying that the cause of death could be Ranikhet or Gambora. He said 2700 birds had died, though unconfirmed sources said about 5000 birds had died since Saturday.
The ministrer said all DMs and SPs have been alerted and instructed not to allow entry of poultry from across Bangladesh border. The owner of the poultry farm and the company that supplied chicks and feeds claim that the hens died due to heat stress.
Rajesh Pandey, the District Magistrate of Darjeeling, said a round the clock monitoring cell has been set up and the district administration is checking other poultry farms also.
Pandey who held an emergency meeting in Kolkata on Tuesday with the police and health officials said the preliminary reports said that 2500 birds died due to Ranikhet with Gumbora infection. Blue Mount Poultry at Matigara where the birds died has been quarantined, and entry and exit of people have been restricted.
Though the numbers of chickens dying has decreased, 20 hens were found dead inside the poultry when Hindustan Times visited the place on Tuesday afternoon. However Pandey said only two birds died on Tuesday and situation has improved a lot.
The district administration has already buried the carcasses in the area. The farm has about 20,000 birds, which were exported to Bangladesh. The incident was spotted first on Monday when a villager informed the matter to nearby Matigara police station.
A senior scientist of ARD department in Kolkata said, "The birds might have died of Ranikhet disease with symptoms of high temperature, repeated white drops and convulsions. The bird flu symptoms are almost similar to the common Ranikhet disease."
Meanwhile the state health department has already precautionary steps in case the deadly avian influenza is reported among human beings. The district health administration has also collected blood samples of six employees of the farm for serological tests.
The department has imported 5000 tablets from Delhi for treatment of avian influenza-affected patient. The medicines have been stored in the Pasteur laboratory.
A senior health department official said that about 1800 sets of specialised apron, masks, gloves and sunglasses were also brought to the city from Delhi. The sets of aprons, gloves and masks will be sent to the districts to distribute among concerned health personnel.