India, South Korea, Vietnam confirm H5N1 outbreaks

May 9, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Authorities in India's West Bengal state today confirmed a new H5N1 virus outbreak in the Darjeeling district, as agriculture officials in South Korea reported that the virus had struck birds in the eastern part of the country, pushing the number of recent outbreaks to 35.

Rajesh Pande, a senior government official in Darjeeling, one of India's primary tea-growing regions, said about 300 backyard poultry died last week near the town of Siliguri in the foothills of the Himalayas, according to a report from Reuters today.

"Tests in a central laboratory confirmed the recent poultry deaths from the H5N1 strain of the virus," he told Reuters.

The outbreak in Darjeeling district brings the number of West Bengal districts that have been hit by the virus this year to 15. An extensive round of outbreaks in the state began in early January, prompting culling operations that destroyed about 4 million birds. Though officials announced in late February that the virus was under control, reports of sporadic outbreaks have continued.

In early April veterinary officials announced that the H5N1 virus had spread to birds in Tripura state in far eastern India. West Bengal and Tripura both share borders with Bangladesh, which also reported several outbreaks earlier this year.

Elsewhere, agriculture ministry officials in South Korea today confirmed that bird deaths in Chuncheon in the eastern part of the country were caused by the H5N1 virus, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. The report did not say how many birds were affected or if the outbreak struck a farm or backyard poultry.

Officials said the latest confirmation raises the number of recent outbreaks in South Korea to 35, AFP reported.

On May 7, the ministry confirmed that birds at an aviary in Seoul were infected with the H5N1 virus, according to another AFP report. The outbreak, in Gwangjin district in eastern Seoul, marked the first detection of H5N1 in the city.

To prevent the spread of the virus, authorities culled 53 chickens, turkeys, and pheasants in the aviary, poultry at a nearby park, and birds at an amusement park in the southern part of the city, according to the AFP report.

In early April the H5N1 virus reappeared in South after about a year's hiatus. The outbreaks occurred first at farms in the southwest and then quickly spread to southern and eastern provinces.

In other developments, animal health officials in Vietnam said H5N1 outbreaks have recently been confirmed near the southern city of Can Tho, according to a report yesterday from Xinhua, China's state news agency.

The virus struck 1,131 poultry, mainly chickens, in a backyard poultry flock in a rural district, the Xinhua report said. Veterinary workers culled the remaining 829 birds at the site.

Agriculture officials said the latest confirmation brings the number of areas currently experiencing outbreaks to three, Xinhua reported. The others are Son La province in northern Vietnam and Vinh Long province in the south.

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