25,000 birds die, avian flu scare

Hindustan Times | BySurojit Ghosh Hazra/Subhendu Maiti, Rampurhat
Jan 14, 2008 01:03 AM IST

The death of birds in a farm along the India-Bangladesh border at Margram in Rampurhat area of Birbhum district sparks fears of a bird flu breakout, report Surojit Ghosh Hazra and Subhendu Maiti.

Around 25,000 poultry birds have died in a farm along the India-Bangladesh border at Margram in Rampurhat area of Birbhum district on Sunday, sparking fears of a bird flu breakout.

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The disease was also reported from Moulabibazar area in northeastern Bangladesh, it was learnt.

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Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) in Birbhum SK Bhowmick said: "It might be a case of bird flu. Thousands of chickens have died of bird flu-like symptoms in the farm in the past few days. We have already taken all preventive measures and sent samples of dead birds to the Bhopal laboratory."

Dr SC Dubey, director of the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal, refused to comment on the matter.

Reports of birds dying in large numbers are coming from many parts of the district. Local residents said hens have been dying of an unknown disease over the past 10 days in Margram village under Margram police station.

Dr Santanu Bandopadhayay, animal husbandry commissioner under the agricultural ministry in New Delhi said the Bhopal lab has not sent any reports yet.

On Sunday, officials of the Bengal animal husbandry department and the Birbhum district civil, health and police administration held a meeting at Margram on the issue.

Ten days ago, a Margram farmer, Bhutto Sk, noticed some of his hens looking drowsy. "The hens stood at one place for a few hours, keeping their heads low as if they were feeling drowsy. Then, they died. 50 of my hens died just like that," he said.

District administration sources reveled that all 95 self-help groups in the village are engaged in the poultry business.

"We also saw the hens looking drowsy. When one of these birds were killed, we found several blood clots," said Asmuda Khatun, another poultry farmer.

Panicked villagers have started cooking the diseased hens. "We don't know what to do. We have invested a lot of our money in this business," said Bablu Mal, a farmer.

There are many others like Bablu, who are eating the diseased hens.

Though the district civil administration has not confirmed whether it is "bird flu", it has cautioned villagers. "We have restricted selling of hens in the village and told villagers to separate the diseased hens and prevent hens from moving out of their pens," said Tapan Kumar Shome, Birbhum DM.

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