Culling begins as bird flu confirmed in Assam

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Guwahati, Nov 28 (UNI) With the outbreak of bird flu confirmed near Guwahati, the culling process began today as the authorities were taking precautions here.

''We were informed that the samples sent to laboratories in Bhopal and Pune have been tested positive. So, we have ordered for culling in the area, which will start today,'' District Magistrate of Kamrup R C Jain said.

''It is the H5N1 strain,'' he said. More than 30,000 chickens and ducks would be culled in the next three days in 20 villages.

The authorities sent the blood samples to the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory about a week back, after the reported unnatural death of a large number of chickens.

Incidentally, Hajo is one of the major hubs from where the chickens are supplied to Guwahati market.

Authorities apprehended a new outbreak after hundreds of poultry died in Rajabazar village, just 35 km west of Guwahati.

No human infections have been reported throughout India so far, though the first outbreak in Avian Influenza was reported in 2006 in Maharashtra.

Experts fear that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form which could be easily transmitted from person to person, leading to an epidemic.

More than 300 birds have died during the past five days in some villages in Assam, fuelling fears of bird flu, officials said here on Wednesday, adding an alert was sounded in the area.

The district authorities imposed a ban on sale of poultry in about 40 villages in a radius of five kilometers from the area where the deaths were reported.

After the last outbreak reported in Darjeeling in West Bengal in May, there were no further reports, prompting the Centre to declare the country free of Avian Influenza.

Between January and May this year, 42 incidents of bird flu were reported from West Bengal and Tripura.

The cause of the flu in Assam was unclear as the affected sites are far from Bangladesh that is frequently affected by the virus.

Moreover, the speed at which the birds were falling ill or dropping dead is a cause for concern, the sources added.

UNI MT DBY DPM KLC1405

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