Even as the threat of swine flu continues, a fresh outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) has been reported from West Bengal. About 20 backyard poultry birds were reported to have died on May 20 in the rural areas of Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal, not far from the Assam and Bangladesh border. These birds were confirmed on May 25 to have died of the most virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu. All the samples tested by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal, and the National Institute of Virology, Pune, had tested positive for this virus.

The animal husbandry department formally notified the outbreak of bird flu in the area to the World Organisation of Animal Health(OIE) on May 28. It also told OIE that measures – curbs on the movement of poultry products, screening and culling of domestic poultry in a 3 km radius around the outbreak spots – have already been taken. No vaccination or treatment of the affected birds has been resorted to, as part of the government’s strategy to tackle bird flu. The places of infection would be suitably disinfected.

The latest eruption of bird flu has occurred around six months after the last outbreak of this disease in Hajo, Rajabazar and Kamrup areas of Assam. About 325 birds had died of H5N1 infection at the time. Besides, over 52,000 birds in a 3 km area around these spots were culled.