Bird flu confirmed
Kolkata, Jan 15: India has confirmed an outbreak of bird flu following the death of thousands of chickens in the past week in West Bengal. The birds tested positive for the potentially deadly H5N1 strain.

It is the third outbreak since 2006 and the first since India declared itself free of the disease last November.

The Union Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday confirmed that thousands of chickens which died in West Bengal’s Birbhum and South Dinajpur districts recently were infected with bird flu virus. Tests carried out on samples sent to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal showed that the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu virus killed the nearly 20,000 poultry. 

The Secretary of Animal Husbandry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Pradip Kumar said one sample each from Birbhum and South Dinajpur had tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus. He however, added that no poultry deaths have been reported from any other district in the state. 

"The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 virus," he told reporters. 

The Centre had instructed the WB government to seal the borders of the two districts immediately after suspected bird flu was detected, Kumar said. Subsequently, all poultry movement from the affected districts was stopped, he added. 

The official informed that the deaths among infected poultry started on January 4. 

He however denied that there is an “outbreak” of bird flu in West Bengal, saying it was a “local occurrence”. The Centre had earlier said that it would declare the death of the chickens as an "outbreak" after it received confirmation by the Bhopal laboratory. 

Over 3.76 lakh chickens will be culled from tomorrow in West Bengal`s Birbhum and South Dinajpur districts. 

"Over 3.50 lakh birds in Birbhum and 26,000 in South Dinajpur district will be culled from tomorrow," West Bengal Animal Resources Development Minister Anisur Rahaman said. 

The culling would be undertaken in Rampurhat I and II, Nalhati municipality and in limited areas in Mayureshwar and Nalhati. 

Bird flu confirmed
Kumar also informed that the state government has been directed to provide compensation to the affected farmers whose birds would be culled at the same time. The state government would pay compensation at the rate of Rs 40 per chicken and Rs 10 per chick to poultry owners. 

Earlier in the day, the Birbhum district administration dispatched 50 special teams to help people dispose of dead chickens in Rampurhat sub-division where bird flu alert was sounded. 

An emergency meeting of all the Block Development Officers of Rampurhat sub-division has also reportedly been called today to discuss the issue. 

Further, a team of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases is due in the affected areas soon to get a preliminary report and collect samples. 

Thousands of birds in India were culled in 2006 following three separate outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 virus in Maharashtra. 

Neighbouring Bangladesh is still reeling under bird flu with around 21 of the country`s 64 districts affected by the deadly virus. 

Experts fear the H5N1 strain of the virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people. 

Bird flu has killed more than 210 people in 12 countries since 2003, the World Health Organisation says.



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