Lab confirms flu virus in Malda birds - Culling to begin today, alert sounded in south dinajpur

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  • Published 15.12.08

Dec. 15: The Malda district administration has been told to start culling chickens in Englishbazar block after reports confirmed the presence of the avian flu virus in dead birds, samples of which had been sent to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal.

The Bengal animal resources development (ARD) department received the reports this evening. The samples had been collected from the Narhatta gram panchayat area of the block yesterday.

The ARD secretary, Dilip Chakrabarty, said culling would be done within 5km radius of Narhatta. “Instructions are being faxed to the district magistrate,” he said over the phone from Calcutta.

Malda district magistrate Sridhar Ghosh, however, said he was yet to receive the instructions. “But I have ordered the blockwise formation of culling teams. The ARD experts from veterinary hospital at Belgachhia in Calcutta who came today were also apprehensive about a bird flu attack,” Ghosh said. Seven moujas within the 5-km radius of Narhatta have been alerted.

The authorities of South Dinajpur zilla parishad also sounded a general alert in the district because of the outbreak of flu in Malda.

The karmadhaksha of the animal resources department in the zilla parishad, Nandadulal Ghosh, who reviewed the situation with the officials, said instructions were given to the administration of Hariharpur, Bansihari and Tapan blocks to prevent entry of poultry from Malda either by road or trains. Villagers of the blocks — the state highway connecting Malda runs over these areas — were asked to get in touch with the veterinary hospital in case they noticed any abnormality in the birds.

“Till today, we have not received reports of bird deaths in our district. We have started taking precautionary measures in view of the outbreak of the killer disease in Malda,” the karmadhaksha said.

In the Hili check post, disinfectants are being sprayed on trucks coming from Bangladesh.

In January, over 250 chickens had died of the H5N1 virus in state-run farms in Balurghat. Nearly 1.5 lakh birds were culled in adjoining areas.

A controversy has cropped up over the exact number of chickens that had died in Malda district in the past one week. Earlier in the day, the ARD secretary had said 20 chickens had died in Malda because of “unknown diseases”. The ARD officials, who had visited the Narhatta panchayat area, said 11 chickens died at Satghoria.

But Englishbazar panchayat samiti president Akram Hossain claimed that over 5,000 chickens have died in the past seven days. “I stick to what I had said yesterday. The reports of deaths are coming from the villages everyday,” Hossain said reacting to the officials’ claims. “Wherever we went, the villagers came out with dead chickens. We also saw birds being dumped in fields and bushes. We have urged the villagers to spray disinfectants to keep away the infectious disease.”

Hossain said there were 73 villages within 3km radius of Narhatta and Kotuali gram panchayats. “This means there are more than 30,000 chickens, besides duck and pigeons. All of them will be culled,” he added.