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India Kills 223,000 Birds; Virus Spreads in Europe

Published on 23 February, 2006, Last updated at 13:24 GMT

Feb 22nd, 2006 - India killed more than 223,000 birds to prevent the spread of avian influenza as Germany, Hungary and Greece reported more infections among wild birds.

The cull took place in the Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, according to Indian officials, as the nation tries to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus to people in the world's second-most populous nation.

Germany's infections among birds rose to 103 after 22 wild birds tested positive for the H5N1 virus, according to the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health. Hungary's government said yesterday European Union laboratory tests found H5N1 in three dead swans from within its borders. In Greece, seven wild swans tested positive for the H5 strain of bird flu, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

``The occurrence of the disease in India, reported on Feb. 18, is part of a recent pattern of rapid geographical spread of the virus in wild and domestic birds,'' the World Health Organization said on its Web site. India is one of 13 countries this month to have reported their first cases of the H5N1 virus in wild or domestic birds.

The spread of the virus in birds creates more opportunity for human infection as people come into contact with poultry during slaughtering, plucking feathers, butchering or preparation for cooking. At least 92 of the 170 people known to have been infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus since late 2003 have died, mainly in Asia, according to the WHO.

Indonesia Test

An Indonesian woman who died Feb. 20 tested positive for the H5N1 strain in a local laboratory check, Ilham Patu, a doctor coordinating bird flu efforts at Jakarta's Sulianti Saroso Hospital said today.

Malaysia is investigating how 40 chickens became infected and died last week in the state of Selangor, Kamaruddin Md Isa, head of the disease control unit at the Veterinary Services Department, said today. The outbreak of the disease is Malaysia's first in over a year.

Illegally imported fighting cocks are ``a possibility, as well as wild migratory birds,'' Kamaruddin said. The result of the probe may be known within a week, he said. Cock fighting is common in Southeast Asia as gamblers bet on the winner.

Wild Birds

Slovakia's Agriculture Ministry said yesterday it was conducting tests that may confirm H5N1 in two dead wild birds.

Greece, which has already confirmed six cases of H5N1 in wild birds, is sending the seven wild swans to the EU laboratory in Weybridge, U.K., for testing, according to AFP.

Germany's most recent confirmed H5N1 cases, involving 18 swans, three geese and a Eurasian buzzard, have brought the country's tally above 100 and prompted authorities to place the coastline of the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on the Baltic Sea, under observation.

India ended culling in its western state of Gujarat after destroying 73,157 birds, and culling in the neighboring state of Maharashtra may end today, Upma Chawdry, joint secretary of India's animal husbandry department, told reporters in New Delhi.

More than 150,000 birds have already been culled in Maharashtra since the state's outbreak, Chawdry said yesterday. No other states have reported cases of bird flu, she said. No human cases have been reported, India's Health Ministry said.

Sri Lanka

The outbreak in India means Sri Lanka is at risk of a bird flu infection, S.K.R. Amarasekara, director general of the Sri Lankan Livestock Ministry's animal production and health department, said today.

``We don't have bird flu at the moment,'' Amarasekara said. ``The risk of bird flu coming into Sri Lanka is high.''

Sri Lanka is most vulnerable to infection in northern regions controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels, Amarasekara said. Most birds are brought into the country by boat and can't easily be monitored by the government, he said.

Sri Lanka, which has banned poultry imports from bird flu infected nations, is weighing whether to ban Indian poultry feed or attempt to control the risk by methods such as fumigation. India supplies Sri Lanka with about 80 percent of the country's chicken-feed ingredients.


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