Avian Influenza
1,000 chickens dead in Assam, alert sounded
Feb 26, 2006 - 5:02:37 PM

The Assam government in India Sunday sounded a health alert after some 1,000 chickens died over the weekend in two villages, officials said.

A government spokesman said the deaths of the birds were reported since Friday from two riverine islands in the eastern district of Tinsukia, 550 km from the state's main city Guwahati.

"We have alerted the people and rushed medical and veterinary teams to the two islands after we got reports of the deaths of a large number of poultry in the area," Tinsukia district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Lohia told IANS on telephone.

The two islands are located in the vicinity of the 650 sq km Dibru Saikhowa National Park, one of the world's 19 biodiversity hotspots.

"Samples of the dead birds were sent to a laboratory in Bhopal to find out if the chickens had died of bird flu or some other disease," Lohia said.

"We are taking the matter very seriously and all preventive measures are being adopted in view of the bird flu scare prevailing across the country."

The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal is India's leading facility for investigating diseases like the H5N1 virus of avian influenza that causes bird flu.

Dibru Saikhowa's park warden Aniruddha Deya said: "We are maintaining a strict vigil in the park area to ensure that no migratory birds have died inside the forests."

The governments in the seven northeastern states - Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur - have banned the import of chicken and eggs from outside the region.

There have been no reported cases of bird flu in the northeast, but the spread of the virus in other Indian states has caused some panic in the region.

Bhairab Kanta Sharma, a veterinarian, said: "People have stopped eating chicken or eggs and so the demand for fish and mutton has gone up manifold during the past week."

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