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WB bans poultry trade due to bird flu

Authorities in West Bengal have banned the trade and consumption of poultry to check the epidemic here.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2008 17:43 IST

Authorities in West Bengal banned the trade and consumption of poultry on Tuesday to stamp out an outbreak of deadly bird flu that officials said was now nearly under control.

"We have decided to ban consumption and sale of poultry throughout the state until further notice," Anisur Rahaman, West Bengal's animal resources minister, told reporters.

Previously, poultry sales had been banned in the 13 of West Bengal's 19 districts where the H5N1 virus had been detected, but now the ban was extended to the entire state as officials tried to ensure there would be no further outbreaks.

More than 3.4 million birds have been culled in West Bengal since the H5N1 virus was first reported last month, state officials said.

Egg exports from the world's second largest producer have also dropped about 50 per cent, leaving the industry with losses of around $20 million, trade officials said. "This is a disaster, we do not know how we will recover," Nazrul Islam of the West Bengal Poultry Association said.

But officials said the outbreak was now basically under control.

"Culling is almost over and we are now conducting mopping up operations in the infected areas," Rahaman said.

Disinfecting villages affected by avian influenza could continue for several weeks, he said.

"But the overall situation is totally under control."

No Human Infections

India said tests of at least 23 people, including several veterinary staff, who were held in isolation wards with symptoms of influenza had turned out negative for H5N1.

"But we are still keeping a close watch," Sanchita Bakshi, the director of health services in West Bengal, said.

India has not reported any human infections of the H5N1 bird flu virus in its four outbreaks of avian influenza since 2006.

Experts fear the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form easily transmitted from person to person, leading to a pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

About 60 per cent of India's one billion plus people live in rural areas close to livestock, just like in many other parts of Asia, raising the risks of bird flu virus infecting people.

India said culling would also take place in states bordering West Bengal and a special watch was in place in districts bordering Bangladesh.

Authorities said the virus could have originated from Bangladesh, where officials were struggling to contain a massive outbreak of bird flu.

"We are keeping a watch on our borders with Bangladesh and other states as the idea is to minimise the chances of bird flu spreading," Rahaman said.

Many unwilling villagers resisted the authorities' efforts, letting most of their backyard poultry free when culling teams arrived. There were reports that some chickens and ducks were smuggled out at night from infected districts.