4 culling workers under watch for infection

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 26, 2008 18:29 hrs

New Delhi/Kolkata: Four workers involved in culling operations in West Bengal were put under medical supervision for "suspected symptoms" of bird flu infection.

"Four animal husbandry workers involved in culling and mop-up activities are under medical supervision," a union health ministry statement said in the capital.

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The bird flu virus resurfaced at a state-run poultry farm at the English Bazaar in Malda district two weeks ago. About 200 chickens have died at the poultry farm since March 13, 2008.

India's worst ever bird flu outbreak was declared in West Bengal January 15, 2008. It hit areas in Murshidabad and Malda districts after a month's gap and the culling of nearly 40 lakh birds.

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"India has not reported a single case of human infection so far. But the current development is a little worrying as all the four under supervision were part of the culling operations. It means they were closely in touch with the poultry birds," a health ministry official said on anonymity.

"We hope they do not turn out as positive cases," he said.

However, the ministry clearly said India has not reported a single human case of bird flu and adequate stock of medicines and personal protective equipments are available with the State and district authorities.

Earlier in the day, authorities in West Bengal said that they have completed the culling operation in English Bazaar.

"We have begun a mopping up drive in some notified areas to slaughter the remaining chickens stocked at different poultry farms," said N K Shit, deputy director of the West Bengal Animal Resource Department (ARD).

"We have decided to take police help if anyone refuses to hand over their chickens to our ARD teams. The operation would be carried out in all 24 mouzas, (small rural areas) including the Malda municipal area.

"We have already culled about 24,000 poultry birds in Malda. Though the target was to kill about 44,000 chickens initially, we saw the actual figure was about 24,000 as we started working in the field," he said.

After India declared an outbreak of bird flu in January, it has affected 13 districts – South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan, Bankura, Malda, Cooch Behar, Purulia and West Midnapore.

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