13 out of 19 West Bengal districts affected with bird flu

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Kolkata, Jan 27 : West Midnapore and South 24 Parganas district were the latest to join the list of districts in West Bengal infected with the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

The total number of avian influenza-affected districts in the state has gone up to 13 out of the 19 districts, despite culling of birds being taken up in a war footing.

West Bengal Animal Resources Development Minister Anisur Rehman today said that over 15.75 lakh poultry have been culled so far out of the target of 22 lakh.

"Of the targeted 22 lakh we have been able to cull nearly 15.75 lakh birds and 1.25 lakh have died. The rest of the lot will be completed by tomorrow," Rehman told reporters here.

"Four districts - South Dinajpur, Nadia, Burdwan and Bankura have completed their culling operations. In the remaining districts culling will be completed soon, he added.

The state government has sent 816 more samples for testing and results will come by Monday.

"If there are any positive samples then we will have to increase the surveillance in the area. So at present we cannot say that the thing is over but the situation is definitely under control," he said.

Earlier on Friday, the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal, confirmed that samples from the Sankrail block of Howrah district and Santuri block of Purulia district tested positive for avian influenza taking the number of affected districts to 11.

The 5000 crore organised poultry industry in West Bengal has taken a bad hit following the outbreak of bird flu.

Since January 15 when the epidemic was officially declared, chicken sales and export have dipped to an all time low. oultry owners are being paid 40 rupees for each bird culled. Poultry farm owners hope banks and financial institutions will back them again this time.

In 2006, after bird flu was detected in Maharashtra, the Centre had given a 4 per cent subsidy on interest on loans given to the organised sector and backed it up with subsidy on poultry feed.

Now, farm owners want culling to be over at the earliest to restore customer confidence. The government says it is doing what it can.

ANI

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