Bangladesh, Pakistan report fresh H5N1 outbreaks

Feb 5, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Livestock officials in Bangladesh said H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks have now struck poultry in 35 of the country's 64 districts, as officials in India issued a statewide poultry ban in West Bengal, where outbreaks have recently flared in more than half of the districts.

Biddyut Kumar Das, scientific officer for Bangladesh's livestock department, said nearly 50,000 birds were slaughtered on Feb 3, the biggest one-day cull since the virus first surfaced in the country in February2007, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. The birds were slaughtered after officials detected the virus at 10 farms in Kushtia district near Dhaka, the capital, the AFP report said.

"The situation is not good. There is no sign of improvement," Das told AFP.

In India, officials have banned the sale and consumption of poultry throughout West Bengal to control the virus, according to a report from Reuters today. Anisur Rahaman,West Bengal's animal resources minister, said poultry sales had previously been banned only in the 13 districts (out of 19 total) that have reported recent H5N1 outbreaks.

State officials said more than 3.4 million birds have been culled since the outbreak was first reported in mid January, according to Reuters.

Tests for the H5N1 virus were negative for at least 23 people, including veterinary workers, who were being treated in isolation units for suspicious symptoms, Reuters reported. "But we are still keeping a close watch," said Sanchita Bakshi, West Bengal's director of health services,

In related developments, animal health officials in India today accused the country's western neighbor, Bangladesh, of refusing to share genetic test results on H5N1 viruses isolated in poultry outbreaks, according to a Times of India report. The findingswould help India determine the source of the outbreaks in West Bengal, the Times report said. India has pointed to Bangladesh as the likely source of the West Bengal outbreaks, according to previous reports.

Bangladeshi officials have told the external affairs ministry that the H5N1 virus strain circulating in the country has not been sequenced, according to the Times report. However, a senior animal husbandry minister who requested anonymity told the Times that a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory in Weybridge, England, has already sequenced the virus, but can't share the results without clearance from Bangladesh.

Elsewhere, animal health officials in Pakistan yesterday reported two new H5N1 outbreaks at farms near Karachi, according to a report from the OIE. The outbreak killed 4,180 4-week old broiler chickens at the two farms; the remaining 7,518 birds were destroyed to contain the outbreak, according to the OIE report.

Twelve workers from the farm have been isolated and are being tested for the virus by a team from the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a report today from Reuters.

Pakistan's last reported H5N1 outbreak occurred in the remote North-West Frontier province in November 2007, an event linked to a probable family cluster of human H5N1 cases that included the country's first confirmed case.

Meanwhile, authorities in Turkey today confirmed a new H5 outbreak in poultry in the northwestern part of the country, the Anatolia news agency reported today, according to AFP.

The outbreak occurred in a village in Sakarya province, according to a statement released to Anatolia by the governor's office, the AFP report said. Further tests are under way to determine if the virus is the highly pathogenic strain.

A few days earlier, Turkey had reported an avian flu outbreak in the Black Sea coastal town of Samsun, about 370 miles east of Sakarya, according to AFP. The country reported its first H5N1 outbreak of 2008 on Jan 22, according to a report from the OIE. That outbreak hit backyard poultry at a village on the Black Sea coast in thecountry's northwestern province of Zonguldak.

Animal health officials in Bulgaria reported a highly pathogenic H7 influenza virus in a mallard duck shot by a hunter in Shumen province in the country's northeast, according to a Feb 1 report from the OIE.

See also:

OIE reports on 2008 Pakistani outbreaks

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