More H5N1 outbreaks in India; virus hits Turkish poultry

Jan 22, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – An animal health official in India said today that outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in the country's West Bengal state have spread to seven districts, as authorities in Turkey announced that the virus struck a village in a Black Sea coastal province.

Shantanu Bandopadhyay, India's animal husbandry commissioner, said the affected sites among West Bengal's 19 districts include Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan, Malda, and Bankura, the Times of India reported today.

More than 100,000 bird deaths have been reported in WestBengal, and government officials plan on culling 2 million chickens and ducks, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report today. Anisur Rahaman, the state's animal resources minister, told AFP that he hoped the culling would be completed in 3 or 4 days. "Otherwise the state will face a disaster,"he said.

However, some residents have resisted culling efforts, and others are smuggling birds out of the district to avoid handing over their birds, according to previous media reports.

Bandopadhyay told the Times that compensation to poultry owners has improved. He said West Bengalofficials are providing on-the-spot compensation.

The current outbreak, which was first reported on Jan 15 in Margram in West Bengal's Birbhum district, is India's largest H5N1 outbreak. No human H5N1 infections have been reported in the country.

Dr Shiv Lal, director of India's National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), said samples and throat swabs from five Murshidabad residents who had suspected H5N1 symptoms were negative, accordingto another Times report. "Earlier on Sunday three other human samples sent to NICS from South Dinajpur tested negative," Lal said.

India's health ministry has asked West Bengal to randomly sample people for the H5N1 virus and today shipped fresh stocks of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) tablets and syrup along with 2,500 masks and other protective gear, according to the Times report.

Elsewhere, animal health officials in Turkey today reported an H5N1 outbreak in backyard poultry at a village on the Black Sea coast in the country's northwestern Zonguldakprovince, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The H5N1 outbreak began on Jan 12 and has hit 13 of the village's 300 birds, the OIE report said. Culling of the remaining birds started today.

Contact with wild birds is listed on the OIE report as the source of the outbreak. Turkey is the second country bordering the Black Sea to report an H5N1 outbreak over the past week. On Jan 18 emergency officials in the Ukraine reported an outbreak at a large poultry farm on the Crimean peninsula.

Officials from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in October that the virus could be lurking in Europe and that it was especially worried about countries surrounding the Black Sea. The FAO said the Black Sea countries are a winter home to migratory birds from Siberia and that many of the countries have poor separation between wild and domestic birds.

The latest outbreak is Turkey's first since April 2007, according to the OIE report.

In other developments, the H5N1 virus struck another district in Bangladesh, United News of Bangladesh, a private news agency, reported yesterday, according to a Xinhua news report. The affected poultry farm is in Natore district, about 102 miles northwest of the capital, Dhaka.

About 4,965 chickens were culled and 3,750 eggs were destroyed to curb the spread of the disease, Xinhua reported. Bangladesh reported its first H5N1 in March 2007, and since then several outbreaks have occurred, mainly around Dhaka and in the north, according to previous reports.

See also:

OIE reports on Turkish outbreak

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