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Tests confirm bird flu in Bengal

Health Secretary confirms poultry deaths in West Bengal have been caused by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus that leads to bird flu, report HT Correspondents.

delhi Updated: Jan 16, 2008 01:36 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times

Confirming that poultry deaths in West Bengal were caused by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus that leads to bird flu, Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said in New Delhi that 60 rapid action teams were in Birbhum and South Dinajpur districts for containment and disinfecting operations.

In Kolkata, state Animal Resource Development Minister Anirur Rehman said about 3.5 lakh chickens, ducks and other ornamental birds would be killed and the carcasses buried in Rampurhat, spreading across a radius of 3km from the spot, while in Balurghat 26,000 chickens would be culled in the government hatchery.

He said culling would begin from Wednesday in the affected blocks in the two districts. Five blocks in Rampurhat in Birbhum and one block in Balurgrat in South Dinajpur have been affected.

“The Department of Animal Husbandry has declared a H5N1 outbreak in West Bengal and informed the World Organisation for Animal Health on Tuesday. Bird samples sent to both the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal and the National Institute of Virology in Pune tested positive for H5N1,” said Dayal, who briefed the Cabinet Secretary about the outbreak on Tuesday evening.

“The cullers will be given Tamiflu to protect them from infection. The state government has 3,600 doses of this flu medication, and we have sent an additional 1,000 doses.”

In addition to the team of two scientists sent on Sunday, Dayal said, two additional teams have been sent to ensure proper surveillance is done in a 10-km radius of the infected farms. Throat swabs from everyone with flu-like symptoms will be collected and sent for testing to Delhi’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Pune’s National Institute of Virology.

Official figures say 35,000 poultry have died in Rampurhat and Balurghat and the government has ordered a ban on consumption, sale or transportation of poultry in these areas.

The northeastern part of Bangladesh might be the prime source of the avian flu sneaking into Balurghat and Birbhum. Several thousand birds are also dying in Murshidabad district.