Almost a fortnight after India declared itself free of avian flu, preliminary reports have confirmed a fresh outbreak of the virus in Hajo block of Kamrup district in Assam where more than 200 poultry birds have died since last Saturday.
“Preliminary tests by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory have indicated bird flu to be the reason behind the poultry deaths. The confirmatory test from the same lab is expected tomorrow. The outbreak will be declared once the report identifies the strain,” Government officials said today.
Once the outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) virus is notified, local health authorities would start culling within the five-km radius of the infected villages, numbered to be around 40. However, the Department of Animal Husbandry in the Agriculture Ministry has issued instructions to set up a control room.
After the last outbreak reported in Darjeeling in West Bengal in May, there were no further reports prompting the Centre to declare the country free of avian flu. Between January and May this year, 42 incidents of bird flu were reported from West Bengal and Tripura. Though the last reported case in Darjeeling was disinfected on June 4, the government couldn’t declare itself flu-free due to a sporadic incident of outbreak in Manipur in July.
After three months elapsed without any incident, the Department on November 4 reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that surveillance in the infected areas showed no signs of the flu and hence it was declaring the country free of bird flu. The Department also informed the states of the new status but asked them not to be complacent in maintaining vigil against the disease.
According to sources, the cause of the flu in Assam was unclear as the affected sites are far from Bangladesh that is frequently affected by the virus. Moreover, the speed at which the birds were falling ill or dropping dead was a cause for concern, the sources said.
While the state government is claiming that 100 birds had died in the block area, unconfirmed reports put the number at 200, sources said.