Jan 28, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Animal health officials in India reported yesterday that H5N1 avian influenza had spread to 13 of 19 districts in West Bengal state, as authorities in neighboring Bangladesh said poultry outbreaks have occurred in close to half of the country's districts.
Anisur Rahman, West Bengal's animal husbandry minister, said the newly affected districts include South 24 Parganas and West Midnapore, Indo-Asian News Service reported yesterday. South 24 Parganas district is only 12½ miles from Calcutta, India's third largest urban area, according to a Reuters report today.
Chicken culling operations have met resistance from local people, and veterinarians in some areas have been raiding backyards at night to surprise villagers who are reluctant to give up their birds, Reuters reported.
More than 1.5 million birds have been culled since the outbreaks were first reported in mid January in Margram, in West Bengal's Birbhum district, according to Reuters. Animal health officials said they plan to slaughter 500,000 more chickens and ducks over the next few days.
R.S. Shukla said 17 human samples have tested negative for the H5N1 virus, according to yesterday's Indo-Asian News Service report. The story said the state government is equipping subdivisional hospitals with ventilators and oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
Meanwhile, officials in Bangladesh said H5N1 outbreaks in poultry have now been reported in 29 of the country's 64 districts, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported yesterday.
Over the past 4 days, more than 1,000 crows have died in three districts, and laboratory tests confirmed they had the H5N1 virus, according to a report today from the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Early reports suggested the crows had eaten dead chickens discarded by farmers, the IRIN report said.
Habibur Rahman, a bird flu expert at Mymensing Agricultural University, and A.S.M. Alamgir, a virologist at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research, called the situation "alarming," IRIN reported.
"Not only crows, about 1,000 ducks died of bird flu in Naogaon district yesterday," IRIN quoted the two officials as saying. "Ducks usually carry the H5N1 virus, but do not die. When ducks die, it indicates that the virus is very highly pathogenic," they said, adding that the possibility of a viral mutation can't be ruled out.
An H5N1 outbreak was reported yesterday at a poultry farm in Dhaka district, near the country's capital, according to IRIN.
Alamgir told IRIN a bird flu ward has been established at the National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital in Dhaka, along with a laboratory to diagnose human H5N1 cases. Rapid response teams, equipped with personal protective equipment, have been stationed in all 64 districts "Enough antiviral drugs have been stored at district hospitals for the use of those who cull sick birds," he said.
Elsewhere, livestock officials in Thailand reported an H5N1 outbreak at a village in the northern province of Phichit, according to a Jan 25 report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. The outbreak is Thailand's second this year; a day earlier officials reported an outbreak in Nakhon Sawan province, also in the north.
In other developments, government officials in the United Kingdom said samples from a sixth mute swan from a Dorset County swan sanctuary tested positive for the H5N1 virus, according to a Jan 26 AFP report.
A spokesman for the UK's Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the sixth swan was collected on Jan 21 as part of wild bird surveillance activity in the area, the AFP report said. The new findings was "not unexpected," and there was no evidence that the virus had spread to other wild or domestic birds, the spokesman told AFP.
About 12 staff members from Abbotsbury Swannery, a tourist destination on England's southern coast where the six infected birds lived, are being monitored for symptoms of H5N1 infection and have received preventive doses of oseltamivir, AFP reported.