Bird Culling in West Bengal

It was in November 2007, that India was branded as a bird flu-free country. But, this was not to last for long as in January 2008, there was an outbreak of the deadly avian flu in the eastern part of India in West Bengal. The WHO also warned that this outbreak is very serious. Now, news has emerged that over 10,000 poultry were slaughtered in around seven West Bengal districts in the last 24 hours as local authorities have stepped up to try and contain the latest outbreak.

A federal Ministry of Agriculture release said that more than 85,000 of a target of over 4,00,000 birds had been culled in Birbhum and West Dinajpur districts of West Bengal where samples of dead birds had been tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain. Samples fro three more districts were also tested. Another 52 smaples of chickens, ducks, pigeons and crows from several districts were being tested at a high-security state-run lab in the central Indian city of Bhopal.

The situation has shown an overall improvement and culling operations have intensified since Sunday with the number of rapid action teams increased from 85 to 300, said West Bengal’s Animal Resources Minister Anisur Rehman.

Earlier, local media had reported about the reluctance of farmers to kill their birds, and this was hampering the culling operations.

Rehman said a sum of 30 million rupees (about 765,306 dollars) had been set aside as compensation for farmers losing their birds and they were being handed tokens and asked to contact their local government offices for the funds.

Sharad Pawar, Food Minister and Food Minister said that paramilitary forces guarding the border would be alerted to keep a close eye on the movement of birds from Bangladesh.

Pawar also said that avian flu was fast spreading and the culling would be carried out wherever the death of large numbers of birds were reported without waiting for confirmation of the presence of the bird flu virus from the Bhopal laboratory.