Bird flu spreads further, amid govt's reassurance

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Kolkata, Jan 27 (UNI) Within an hour of West Bengal government's formal announcement that the bird flu situation was under control, two more districts confirmed presence of the deadly H5N1 virus.

With this 13 out of 19 districts in West Bengal are in the grip of Avian influenza.

''We have two more districts - South 24 Parganas adjoining Kolkata and West Midnapore - in the grip of bird flu. The affected area in South 24 Parganas is in Budge Budge (Kashipore and Alampur panchayat areas) and in West Midnapore it is Chawkbecha village under Lowada panchayat area,'' West Bengal Animal Husbandry Minister Anisur Rahman admitted later today.

Budge Budge is barely 15 km from Kolkata.

''We were hoping to complete culling operation by Monday, but now more time would be needed,'' he said.

Mr Rahman said new confirmations also came from new areas of existing bird flu affected districts like Cooch Behar (Mathabhanga) and Murshidabad (Samshergunge).

Mr Rahman confirmed that the reports came in within an hour of state Health Minister Surya Kanta Mishra and state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta joint press meet to declare the bird-flu situation under control.

West Bengal had slaughtered 1.5 million birds, against a target of 2.2 million, till Sunday despite the inclement weather for the past two days.

''We have already culled around 1.57 million birds till Sunday.

About 1000 Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and engaged in the work and the culling target of 2.2 million is likely to be completed by Monday. But the completion of the process would be now delayed by new infections in new areas,'' Rahman said.

Earlier, Asim Dasgupta said the rehabilitation package for the poultry losers would cost around Rs 150 crores (as soft loans, waivers, grants) and Rs 25 crores would be required to compensate at least half a million affected families as they would be given Rs 500 each as immediate compensation.

He said the state government has disbursed Rs 8.5 crore so far besides Rs three crore by the centre. ''We have sought another Rs 5 crore from the centre now,'' he said.

Senior health official R S Shukla said all entry and exit points of Kolkata were under scanner of the police and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to prevent bird flu contamination in the city of around 5 million people.

He said only 14 poultries were identified to supply chicken and eggs to Kolkata. Shukla said all 17 human samples, including of five women, sent for laboratory tests have proved negative.

The state government is making arrangements to equip sub-divisional hospitals with ventilators and Tamiflu tablets. On Friday, the authorities confirmed the disease had reached Sankrail in Howrah, barely 10 km from Kolkata. With Budge Budge confirming the presence of the virus, the threat to Kolkata only increased further.

The 13 Avian flu affected districts are Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan, Bankura, Malda, Hooghly, Cooch Behar, Purulia, Howrah, South 24 Parganas and West Midnapore. The virus was first confirmed in Birbhum and South Dinajpur on January 15.


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