Authorities confirmed India’s worst outbreak of bird flu was the virulent H5N1 virus strain Tuesday, and announced plans to slaughter 2 million birds in eastern India in a bid to contain the disease.
The H5N1 strain has been blamed for the deaths of at least 219 people worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. No human cases have been reported in India, despite two previous outbreaks of the strain among birds.
The latest outbreak is centered in the state of West Bengal. January 15 test results determined birds were dying from the H5N1 strain of the virus, the state’s animal husbandry minister, Anisur Rahman, said Tuesday.
He also said the disease had spread to a seventh district in the state and announced plans to increase the number of birds to be slaughtered from 700,000 to 2 million to stop the virus from spreading further. State workers have already killed about 400,000 birds, Rahman said.
Officials are having trouble containing the outbreak because it has largely struck chickens that peasants keep in their small yards rather than the large poultry farms affected in earlier bouts of bird flu in India, Rahman said.
The H5N1 virus has afflicted more than 60 countries since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003, forcing the slaughter of hundreds of millions of birds worldwide.
It remains hard for people to catch, but experts fear it may mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds. (AP)
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