Bird flu spreads to 2 more West Bengal districts | india | Hindustan Times
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Bird flu spreads to 2 more West Bengal districts

india Updated: Jan 27, 2008 19:18 IST

The deadly H5N1 virus on Sunday spread to two more districts in West Bengal, confirmed barely an hour after the state government declared the bird flu situation as "under control".

With this, 13 of the 19 West Bengal districts are in the grip of avian influenza.

"We have two more districts, South 24 Parganas adjoining Kolkata and West Midnapore, in the grip of bird flu. The affected area in South 24 Parganas is in Budge Budge (Kashipore and Alampur panchayat areas) and in West Midnapore it is Chawkbecha village under Lowada panchayat area," West Bengal Animal Husbandry Minister Anisur Rahman told IANS.

Budge Budge is barely 15 km from Kolkata.

"We were hoping to complete culling operations by Monday, but now more time will be needed," he said.

Rahman said bird flu also spread to new places in districts like Cooch Behar (Mathabhanga) and Murshidabad (Samshergunge) that were already affected.

Rahman confirmed the new infections an hour after he held a press meet with Health Minister Surya Kanta Mishra and Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta and declared the bird flu situation was under control.

West Bengal had set a target to slaughter about 2.2 million birds by Monday. More than 1.5 million poultry birds were culled till Sunday morning despite inclement weather in the past two days.

"We have already culled around 1.57 million birds till Sunday. About 1,000 Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and engaged in the work and the culling target of 2.2 million is likely to be completed by Monday. But the completion of the process would be now delayed by new infections," Rahman said.

Finance Minister Dasgupta said the rehabilitation package for those in the poultry sector would cost around Rs.1.5 billion in terms of soft loans, waivers, grants and Rs.250 million would be required for compensation to at least half a million affected families as they would be given Rs.500 each as immediate compensation.

He said the state government had disbursed Rs.85 million so far besides Rs.30 million from the central government. "We have sought another Rs.50 million from the central government now," he said.

The total loss from the culling and deaths of the birds from the flu itself was around Rs.1.5 billion, he said.

Senior health official R.S. Shukla said police and civic authorities were keeping a watch at Kolkata's all entry and exit points to prevent bird flu contamination in the metro of around 5 million people. The population of greater Kolkata is around 10 million.

He said only 14 poultries were identified to supply chicken and eggs to Kolkata.

Shukla said all 17 human samples, including of five women, sent for laboratory tests had proved negative.

The state government is making arrangements to equip sub-divisional hospitals with ventilators and Tamiflu tablets.

On Friday, authorities confirmed the disease had reached Sankrail in Howrah, barely 10 km from Kolkata. With Budge Budge confirming the presence of the virus, the threat to Kolkata only increased further.

The 13 avian flu affected districts are Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan, Bankura, Malda, Hooghly, Cooch Behar, Purulia, Howrah, South 24 Parganas and West Midnapore. The virus was first confirmed in Birbhum and South Dinajpur on Jan 15.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the situation in West Bengal as "serious".

The H5N1 virus causes a type of influenza in birds that is highly contagious. It does not usually infect people unless they come in close contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces.