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India blames Bangladesh as bird flu spreads PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 April 2008

REUTERS, GUWAHATI, India - Authorities battling an outbreak of bird flu in poultry in Tripura blamed Bangladesh for the spread on Thursday, but many experts said India was not doing enough to contain the virus.

A health worker culls geese at a poultry farm in Bijoy village, about 45 km west of Agartala April 24, 2008. Authorities battling an outbreak of bird flu in poultry in Tripura blamed Bangladesh for the spread on Thursday, but many experts said India was not doing enough to contain the virus. More than 25,000 chickens and ducks have already been slaughtered in Tripura this month after it was hit by the H5N1 strain.

On Thursday, authorities chose to blame neighbouring Bangladesh after they received reports of new bird flu cases in the state. "Unless bird flu is contained completely in Bangladesh, the virus will keep spreading in Tripura," U. Venkatateswarlu, a top official of the animal resource development department said. The remote northeastern state borders Bangladesh, where more than half the country's districts have been affected by the virus.

"Our main problem in controlling the situation is because of close proximity with Bangladesh," Venkatateswarlu added. But many people disagreed. For the past two days, while hundreds of birds mysteriously died in remote villages, complaints from people were largely ignored by state authorities, some officials and animal experts said "It is foolish on their part to blame Bangladesh for their own doing," N.G.

Jayasimha of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights group, told Reuters from Mumbai. "We had warned the Tripura government about bird flu and we told them the reason for the spread of bird flu is because of bad farm practices," he said by telephone. "They sat on our report and did nothing."

"TIME FOR STRONG ACTION"

Local politicians also voiced their concern over the government's slow reaction in dealing with bird flu. "The government is going too slow and blaming Bangladesh will not solve this problem as it is time we should take strong action," said Ratan Lal Nath, a lawmaker from Mohanpur town, worst-hit by the recent outbreak.

Authorities said they would cull at least 15,000 more birds to control the virus in two new areas. Most people had also stopped buying chickens in markets and traders said they were staring at huge losses. When the virus resurfaced in West Bengal in January this year, many states banned poultry products, pulling down prices sharply. Farmers cut production as sales went down by more than 70 percent.

The World Health Organisation said the rapid spread of bird flu throughout much of densely populated West Bengal was the most serious outbreak yet in India. On Thursday, volunteers from the Tripura health department were also checking people for any flu-like symptoms.

India has not reported any human infections of the H5N1 bird flu virus since the country's first outbreak in 2006. But experts fear the virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people.

Since the virus resurfaced in Asia in late 2003, at least 240 people have died from bird flu in a dozen countries, the WHO says.

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