India’s West Bengal reports fresh bird flu outbreak

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Health and veterinary workers culled poultry in a densely populated eastern Indian state on Saturday after a fresh outbreak of H5N1 bird flu, officials said.

The latest outbreak of the virus in poultry is the fourth in the state of West Bengal since 2007.

Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006. Millions of chicken and ducks have been culled since to contain the virus, but it has resurfaced from time to time. India has reported no human infections.

West Bengal officials said they had begun culling about 60,000 poultry after the fourth outbreak was confirmed on Saturday near Siliguri town, bordering Bangladesh.

Culling operations in West Bengal to contain the third outbreak had ended barely a fortnight ago.

“We have sent 30 teams to kill chickens and ducks in the village where dead birds tested positive,” Surendra Gupta, a senior government official, told Reuters.

Hundreds of thousands of birds had also been culled in India’s northeastern Assam state and neighboring Meghalaya after bird flu was detected in November. Experts have warned that the H5N1 virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people across the world.

According to the World Health Organization, H5N1 bird flu has infected more than 390 people in 15 countries and killed at least 247 of them since the virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003.

(Reporting by Sujoy Dhar, Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee/Tony Austin)

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