Crows and hawks dying with bird flu symptoms in some areas of the bird flu-hit districts of Birbhum, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur have raised fears that the killer disease may spread to other districts, even Kolkata.
State Animal Resource Development (ARD) department officials said flying birds infected with the H5N1 virus may be carrying the disease to new places.
<b1>State Director General of Health Services Sanchita Bakshi said: “Deaths of several birds and hawks were reported in the bird flu-affected villages in Rampurhat. We are keeping a watch on how these birds are dying.”
Dr Amaresh Chatterjee, a former director in the ARD department told HT: “It is a matter of concern once crows and hawks are affected with the H5N1 virus. Droplets of affected birds spread the virus rapidly everywhere — and even in ponds and water bodies. It is not possible to confine these birds in cages, as is possible with poultry birds.”
It is possibly because of the virus having hit flying birds that chickens are dying in areas outside those initially identified as affected by the killer disease. About 2,000 chickens died in Jamuria, Kirnahar and Barwan in Burdwan, Birbhum and Murshidabad districts on Thursday.
The ARD department messed up again in culling birds in Birbhum and South Dinajpur on Thursday at a time when the Centre, along with the World Health Organisation (WHO), criticised the state government for its delay in taking preventive action after the outbreak was confirmed by lab tests in Bhopal and Pune. The Centre has directed the state to cull birds in Murshidabad’s Khargram and Padakandi areas, bordering the worst-affected Rampurhat in Birbhum.
A senior WHO official said the fourth bird flu outbreak in India since 2006 presented its toughest challenge.
About 10,000 birds were culled in Birbhum while hardly 2,000 were killed in South Dinajpur. The state-sponsored culling process is too slow. State government officials said this is because the Centre has not sent an official communication about sharing the cost of culling.
In fact, the Centre is yet to issue an official notification declaring that the disease is of epidemic proportions, said ARD Minister Anisur Rahman.
The minister said payment of compensation to affected farmers would pose little problem.