January 18, 2008

West Bengal Bird Flu Continues Due To Ignorance

The World Health Organization has described the current bird flu outbreak as India's most serious outbreak thus far. The virus has been found over three districts according to the agriculture ministry, and more than 60,000 birds have died.

The outbreak worsens as ignorance about the virus stops efforts that the ministry is making to contain the spread. Villagers in India continue to dump dead birds in ponds, despite health workers promptings to stop.

West Bengal has been ordered to kill 400,000 chickens a week; however officials have stated that it could take over two weeks to have that many dead. Anisur Rahaman, the West Bengal animal resources minister said that it was people's ignorance that has delayed the killing of birds and made matters worse.

In Margram village, loudspeakers were used to ask people to report their poultry deaths and to refrain from throwing dead birds in water tanks or ponds. Volunteers have been attempting to educate villagers of the dangers of the virus, however many remain ignorant while others refuse to give up their poultry for culling. The villagers say that the dollar per chicken from the government is not enough to turn them over.

Health officials have said that the water will probably be contaminated and the virus will begin to affect other bird species. There have already been bird deaths in areas over 180 miles away from the location of earlier outbreaks.

Most of the border of West Bengal and Bangladesh was sealed following an outbreak in Bangladesh, however as Pradeep Kumar, India's animal husbandry secretary would say, "Birds don't observe borders."

This is India's fourth bird flu outbreak in less than two years. There have been no reports of human infection, however the strain H5N1 which is in India is highly contagious, and scientists worry that it could eventually affect humans and be easily transmittable from human to human.

West Bengal's neighboring states have banned poultry products from West Bengal, and their chicken and egg sales have dropped accordingly. Army kitchens in the vicinity have also quit serving chicken.


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