Bird flu hits West Bengal again

Published: Tuesday 15 April 2008

Nearly a month after four million birds culled, a fresh outbreak of avian influenza hit West Bengal's Murshidabad district early last month. The reappearance of the virus (see 'Cockpit', Down To Earth, February 29, 2008) in the district's Jiaganj and Raghunathganj-II blocks had the government scrambling for excuses and state animal husbandry minister Anisur Rahman chewing a chicken tangri before the media in a bid to stem further losses in the poultry industry.

The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal confirmed the new outbreak on March 7, 2008. A "second phase" of culling operations resumed on March 12 and by March 16 the state reported that the authorities had killed 4031,813 chickens and "no unusual mortality" was being reported among poultry in the state.

However, fresh reports of unexplained poultry deaths began trickling in from neighbouring Malda district the very next day. Rahman initially blamed villagers for the recent outbreak, saying many had hidden their ducks and chickens during the previous culling operations.

But the minister later admitted that the state hadn't followed all the guidelines to contain the initial outbreak in January this year--the worst India has ever had so far--and as a result there might be intermittent outbreaks in the state over the next few years.

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