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H5N1 Spread in Nadia and Burdwan West Bengal

Recombinomics Commentary 14:49
January 21, 2008

According to district animal husbandry department, hundreds of chickens died of unknown disease in the villages under Taldaha-Majdiya gram panchayat in Krishnaganj block and Hatisala gram panchayat in Chapra block over the past few days.

Mr Gour Biswas, sabhapati of the Krishnaganj panchayat samity said: “I have reported the unnatural deaths of chickens in Taladaha area to authorities and urged them to take immediate action.” Chapra block administrative officer Mr Bhaba Sindhu Mondol said: “A stray dog was found dead after eating the carcasses of a few chickens which were dumped near Hatra village. I have brought the attention of the incident to the district administration.” Besides chickens, pigeons were also found dead in Muragacha near Bethuadahari Sanctuary. The district administration has sent the samples of the dead pigeons to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal.

Meanwhile, the district administration received reports of the samples collected from the villages Jaggeswardihi, Bonkapasi, Baktona, Srikhanda, Napara in Durmut panbchayat area. The reports have confirmed the existance of flu. The villages under the panchayat witnessed death of more than 20,000 birds in four days.

New cases of avian flu were also reported from Jamuria and Raniganj under the Assansol sub division this evening. Almost 7,000 chickens from the Hijalgora and Pariharpur areas of Jamuria and Kunustoria, two kilometres from Raniganj and Raniganj have died over the past five days. When contacted, SDO (Assansol) Mr Alokesh Roy said that he had received information about chicken deaths from these areas.

The above comments describe multiple outbreaks in Nadia and Birdwan districts in West Bengal (see satellite map).  Included are suspect death of wild birds and a dog.  This spread is exacerbated by the testing protocols in India, which involve a minimal amount of testing in regions were bird deaths are high.

Initial reports of deaths in Nadia were blamed on New Castle Disease.  However, villagers noted that the dead birds had not responded to treatment, indicating the deaths were not due to New Castle Disease, which is control through vaccinations.  Rapid tests showed the tested birds were H5N1 negative, which also indicates the number of samples tested was a minimal number.  Over the weekend more sensitive tests confirmed H5N1 in Nadia and Birdwan.  However, while the government was denying H5N1 with mis-diagnosis and rapid tests, H5N1 was spreading throughout the blocks listed above.

The denials in India are not new. Although wild birds are now being tested, and the large number of dead crows and pigeons leaves little doubt that these birds are H5N1 positive, India has never reported H5N1 in migratory birds, even though the birds that summer in Siberia and Mongolia winter in India and birds at the locations in Siberia and Mongolia are H5N1 positive.

Moreover, the H5N1 sequences from the 2006 outbreak in India are clade 2.2.3, which were the precursor sequences for the Uva Lake outbreak in Mongolia in the summer of 2006.  Thus, sequence data and migration support new introductions of H5N1 into India via migratory birds.  A dead teal in Calcutta has created panic in the region, as have dead hawks and crows.

India’s testing continues to chase the virus, as it spreads throughout West Bengal and will likely spread further into adjacent regions.

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