Culling of thousands of chickens began in West Bengal on Monday after preliminary tests on dead poultry indicated they had bird flu. Unconfirmed reports said more than 50,000 poultry died showing bird flu symptoms in many farms run by state government-sponsored self-help groups.
“Bird samples were sent for testing to the High Security Animal Testing Laboratory in Bhopal and the National Institute of Virology in Pune on Sunday and the results confirming whether it is the H5 strain are expected by Tuesday or Wednesday. The sequencing of the N1 component will take longer,” said Dr Shiv Lal, director, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi.
Two NICD experts have reached Margram village in the Rampurhat area of Birbhum district, where most of the birds have died with indications that they were affected by the dreaded disease. Besides, the state's health department has sent 110 veterinary doctors to the spot.
“About 18,300 poultry birds have died during the last six days in the two gram panchayat areas of Rampurhat,” said state Animal Resource Development Minister Anisur Rehman. He, however, said there is no confirmation that the poultry died due to bird flu.
The minister said the state government had instructed all poultry farms to keep a strict vigil. Sale of poultry has been banned in the affected areas of Rampurhat I and II blocks. The Indo-Bangladesh border has been sealed to ensure that no poultry or related products enter the state from Bangladesh.
A senior official of the Birbhum district administration said, “There might be every possibility of the bird flu infection spreading among local people who either ate affected chickens or came into close contact with the affected birds during the past week.” A senior official of the state’s health department said that about 4,000 Tamiflu tablets were sent to the village where thousands of poultry birds are dying with symptoms of drowsiness and malfunctioning lungs.
India has been on high alert ever since bird flu was detected in neighbouring Bangladesh in December. New Delhi has banned poultry trade with bird flu-hit countries such as China, Bangladesh and Myanmar but people continue to smuggle poultry across the borders. “It is a difficult and very porous border, but we have measures in place that have been further tightened,” said an official of the Union Animal Husbandry Department.