Jan 18, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Ukrainian emergency officials today reported an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza at a large chicken farm in the northern Crimean peninsula, as animal health officials in India continued their struggle to contain poultry outbreaks in West Bengal state.
Ukraine's emergency situations ministry said about 200 chickens died at the farm on Jan 15, and testing confirmed the birds had the H5N1 virus, RIA Novosti, Russia's state news agency, reported today. About 25,000 birds on the farm will be slaughtered to control the spread of the disease, and authorities have established a 3-kilometer protection zone around the area.
State inspectors are sampling domestic and wild bird populations throughout the Crimean peninsula for the H5N1 virus, according to a Deutsche Presse-Agentur report today.
Ukraine's last H5N1 outbreak occurred in June 2006, when the virus struck chickens in the northeastern part of the country near the Russian border, according to previous reports.
In October, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the H5N1 virus could be lurking in Europe and said it was particularly worried about countries bordering the Black Sea, which include Ukraine. The FAO said the Black Sea is a wintering area for migratory birds from Siberia and other locations and that poultry systems of many Black Sea countries have poor separation between wild and domestic birds.
Jan Slingenbergh, an FAO senior animal health officer, said in the report that Black Sea area countries have large populations of chickens, ducks, and geese, with densities similar to those in some Asian countries where the virus continues to circulate in waterfowl and domestic birds. He said Ukraine has about 20 million domestic ducks.
Meanwhile in India, West Bengal state's chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, today described the spread of the H5N1 virus as "alarming," Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Anisur Rahaman, animal health minister in West Bengal, told AFP that villagers are resisting culling operations, chicken sales are continuing despite a ban, and more reports of poultry deaths are coming in from different areas.
No human cases of H5N1 infection have been reported, though local hospitals are preparing isolation wards, Rahaman told AFP.
A home ministry official in New Delhi said the paramilitary Border Security Force has been activated to stop the smuggling of chickens into Bangladesh, which neighbors West Bengal state, the AFP report said.
The number of chickens and ducks that have died over the past week has increased to 62,000, Dilip Das, West Bengal's animal resources development director, told AFP.
In other developments, government officials in the United Kingdom said today that samples from a fifth mute swan from a Dorset Country swan sanctuary have tested positive for the H5N1 virus, the BBC reported.
John Houston, general manager of the swannery, said the latest finding is not surprising, according to the BBC report. "We are expecting to have a run of positives and negatives while [the virus] works its way through the herd," he said.
He said H5N1 test results are pending on samples from four or five more dead swans that were collected at the sanctuary, the BBC reported.