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Bird flu alert follows Assam outbreak

The outbreak of avian flu in Assam has prompted the state government to sound an alert in Calcutta and the rest of the state.

“A general alert has been issued about any unnatural symptoms or deaths of migratory birds or poultry,” health services director Sanchita Bakshi said on Tuesday.

The animal resources development department has asked the city zoo and forest department to keep vigil on migratory birds. “We have asked the forest department to keep an eye on migratory birds that flock the zoo as well as lakes in and around the city,” said animal resources development minister Anisur Rehman.

Experts said migratory birds — hundreds of them flock around the zoo and lakes in Santragachhi and other water bodies — are the most common carriers of the avian flu virus.

During the last outbreak, thousands of poultry birds died in several districts of Bengal following an outbreak of bird flu. Rapid reaction teams were set up to cull birds in the affected districts in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. But the flu came as close as Howrah, sparing the city by a whisker.

“Avian flu spreads very rapidly. Employees of the animal resources development department are being trained to tackle any outbreak on a war footing,” said Rehman. “Special checkposts have been set up in the districts bordering Bangladesh and Assam.”

The minister, however, held out the assurance that the poultry market in the city had not been affected.

A joint panel of experts has been set up to suggest preventive measures and supervise their implementation. “Experts are conducting epidemiological studies on the avian virus, its character and the way it mutates. This will help us understand better how avian flu can be prevented,” said an official.

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