Even as culling of poultry began in the state, reports of the deadly bird flu disease spreading to newer areas came in on Wednesday, with the state government issuing a general alert. Meanwhile, Margram village in Birbhum district has been declared the epicentre of the bird flu outbreak and sealed off from the rest of the country.
<b1>The state government has confirmed that the flu is spreading to Murshidabad and two new blocks in Birbhum. More poultry birds are dying with symptoms of bird flu in other parts of the state, including Burdwan, South 24 Parganas, Nadia and Malda.
It was learnt that the animal husbandry department in New Delhi has pulled up the state for its delay in taking measures to prevent the outbreak. While the birds started dying on January 4, the state informed the Centre a week later — resulting in delay in public awareness campaigns. Moreover, culling in the vulnerable Margram village started around 1 pm on Wednesday — a full 24 hours after the Centre confirmed existence of the deadly disease in Bengal on Tuesday afternoon.
The operation could not gain momentum till Wednesday evening, following the state government’s failure to properly train the health workers and spread public awareness campaigns in Rampurhat and Balurghat. The poor villagers also tried to escape killing their birds by selling them outside and releasing them in the nearby fields.
Director of Health Services Sanchita Bakshi said, “The culling process was a little delayed in the affected districts. Around 1,500 chickens were disposed of in Birbhum district on the first day. A team of experts from Delhi is coming to the city on Thursday to take stock of the situation. They will also hold meetings with state health and animal resource development officials.”
Meanwhile, all private vehicles have been banned from entering or leaving a 10 km radius around the epicentre, Margram. “The idea is to contain the outbreak by preventing poultry being smuggled out of the area,” Union Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said. Though there are no reports of suspected human infections, the health authorities are not taking any chances. “Ten doctors have been appointed to monitor the health of the cullers. Of the 280 examined before the culling started, 29 were found unfit. The rest went to work wearing full protective gear,” he added.
The Centre has sent another 20,000 doses of Tamiflu – the medicine used to treat bird flu – to add to the state’s existing stock of 3,700 doses.