Darjeeling reeling under bird flu fear

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Darjeeling/Kolkata, Jan 31 : The fear of bird flu spread on Thursday gripped Darjeeling district of West Bengal as 38 chickens were found dead at Takdah village.

The total number of bird-flu hit districts in the state has gone up to 13 out of 19, despite the culling of birds being taken up on a war footing.

Thirty-eight chickens died at Takdah village of the district on Wednesday night, said Darjeeling Magistrate Rajesh Pandey, adding that blood samples have been sent to Bhopal.

According to sources, the West Bengal Animal Husbandry Ministry has raised the culling target to 27 lakh after death of 4,000 chickens were reported in North 24 Parganas district on Wednesday.

"As the target area is increasing every day it is impossible to say how many chicken will have to be killed," West Bengal Animal Resources Development minister Anisur Rehman said.

"We have sent more than 3,500 human samples and none have tested positive," he added.

In West Bengal, fresh poultry deaths were reported yesterday from a private farm in South 24-Parganas triggering fears that the H5N1 virus might be spreading to the organised sector after affecting backyard chicken.

Earlier this week, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had said that poultry deaths due to bird flu in West Bengal have declined.

"It is a fact that the natural disease mortality has declined in West Bengal due to

The Central Government had sought details from neighbouring Bangladesh on the strain of bird flu virus affecting the poultry in that country.

The 5000-crore organised poultry industry in West Bengal has been badly hit following the outbreak of bird flu.

Since January 15, when the epidemic was officially declared, chicken sales and exports have dipped to an all time low.

Poultry owners are being paid 40 rupees for each bird that is 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 four per cent subsidy on interest on loans given to the organised sector and backed it up with subsidy on poultry feed.

In Jharkhand, additional check posts have been set up in nine sensitive districts adjacent to West Bengal. The district administrations have banned the movement of poultry products from West Bengal.

ANI

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