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Suspect H5N1 Wild Bird Deaths Along Indian Bangladesh Border

Recombinomics Commentary 23:50
January 16, 2008

Crows and hawks dying with bird flu symptoms in some areas of the bird flu-hit districts of Birbhum, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur have raised fears that the killer disease may spread to other districts, even Kolkata.

The above comments indicate dead wild birds are associated with the outbreak in South Dinajpur.  Initial reports of the outbreak in Birbhum mentioned dead crows, eagles and pigeons.  Video of the outbreak showed large numbers of dead crows, raising concerns that sealing the border with Bangladesh would do little to halt the spread of H5N1.

H5N1 is highly suspected in the outbreak in adjacent Murshidabad (see satellite map), and dead crows were also linked to that outbreak.  Moreover, although the border has been sealed, new reports of H5N1 outbreaks in adjacent regions on both sides of the border continue to be reported.  The outbreak in South Dinajpur was followed by an outbreak across the border in Rajshahi.

Similarly, the outbreak in Birbhum was followed by an outbreak in Jessore.

On the West Bengal side of the border, excessive bird deaths have been reported in multiple districts to the south, which could also be linked to infections in resident birds.

India’s history of detection of H5N1 in wild birds has been poor.  H5N1 infected long range migratory birds have been detected at Qinghai Lake in 2005 and 2006.  Birds from Qinghai Lake winter on the northern plains of India, yet no H5N1 has been reported, even though poultry workers had H5 antibodies long before H5N1 infections in India were reported.

The outbreak in domestic poultry also appears to have been missed at its early stages.  The OIE report indicates the outbreak started January 4, 2008, but local villagers said domestic poultry began to die on December 18,  2007.

Now the H5N1 appears to have reached critical mass, and is rapidly spreading along the length of the India / Bangladesh border.

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