The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Alert after bird flu in Assam
- 250 chickens dead in malda in 48 hours

Malda, Dec. 12: The Bengal animal resources development department has sounded an alert in the districts of north Bengal bordering Assam following the outbreak of bird flu in the neighbouring state. At least 250 poultry chickens have died in the past 48 hours in a Malda village.

Animal resources development minister Anisur Rahman had held a video-conference with the officials of his department in the region on Wednesday. “We have alerted the districts bordering Assam after reports of bird flu,” the minister had told the conference.

At Satghoria village in Malda’s Narhatta gram panchayat, Abul Hossain’s 52 and Maheboob Zahed’s 23 chickens died in the past two days. Habibur Rahaman of the same locality had lost 16 birds, Anzor Sheikh had 14, Fuju Sheikh 15, Naju Sheikh 13, Namima Bibi 12 and Md Ismail had lost five chickens. Around 25 chickens died in the village even today, spreading panic among villagers.

Bishan Chowdhury, the pradhan of Narhatta gram panchayat, said: “The chickens first get stricken with drowsiness and then die suddenly. We have brought it to the notice of the animal resources department. This incident has been going on for the past one week or so.”

Villagers complained that there was no one to remove the dead chickens.

“Children can be seen playing with them Dogs feast on them and the remains dirty the place,” one of them said.

More than 30,000 chickens had died of avian flu in January. Nearly two lakh birds had been culled in the district then.

CPM councillor of the Old Malda Municipality Biswanath Sukul wondered why the administration was “sitting idle”.

He demanded that the blood samples of the chickens should immediately be sent to Bhopal for tests. “We will ask compensation from the administration for the affected villagers,” he said.

The pradhan said the department should act on warfooting because the chicken deaths would have far reaching effect on the rural economy.

“Several self-help groups, comprising women only, have in recent times invested in poultry farming,” Chowdhury added.

District animal resources officer Nikhil Sit, however, tried to allay the bird flu fear. “The cause of death is yet to be ascertained,” he said, while asking the affected villagers to contact the nearest veterinary hospital for free vaccination of the birds.

Sridhar Ghosh, the district magistrate, said no one had informed him about the chicken deaths. “I shall ask for a report from the department officials and take necessary steps.”

In Assam, which shares the border with Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, the government yesterday sounded a grim warning over the probable spread of avian influenza to humans, saying the state was not equipped to handle such a health scenario.

The alert came in the wake of 82 cases of upper respiratory track infections in humans that were reported from six districts affected by bird flu. However, it was not yet confirmed whether these were bird flu-related cases.

An infection in the upper respiratory track is one of the symptoms of the disease in humans.

“If human beings are affected it would be a bigger disaster than floods or blasts,” health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had told reporters.

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