Kolkata got perilously close to the bird flu on Wednesday, with the arrival of the killer virus being confirmed in the adjoining district of Hooghly, and in Coochbehar.
Along with this, three districts neighbouring the state capital – North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas and Howrah – are showing signs that the H5NI virus may have infected poultry there as well. With the confirmation of bird flu in Hooghly and Coochbehar, as many as nine of the state’s 19 districts are affected by the disease – and five more have reported poultry deaths with symptoms of bird flu.
In Naxalbari, Darjeeling, a poultry farm worker was quarantined in a hospital after he complained of high fever and sneezing. The district health administration sent his blood sample to the North Bengal Medical College for a preliminary serological test. A large number of poultry birds died in the farm where he works.
The government’s inability to respond speedily to the disease was evident after the Centre confirmed on Monday that the infection had hit poultry birds in Chanchol and Harishchandrapur in Malda district. But the state is yet to start culling birds even though two full days have passed. After sitting on the confirmation report for more than 24 hours, the government directed the Malda district administration on Tuesday evening to prepare culling birds immediately. But the government sent no funds for compensating poultry owners and no personal protection gear for rapid response teams (RRT) for the culling operation.
Said a Malda district administration officer, “It is not possible to start culling before Thursday evening. The delay will help spread the disease. Already deaths of poultry birds are being reported from the bordering Katihar district in Bihar. It not possible to arrange an army of 1,200 men, comprising veterinary doctors and health workers for RRTs any sooner.”