Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-15-India bird flu cases positive

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-15-India bird flu cases positive

The authorities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra say they have identified four cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain.

Tests on poultry from the state's Jalgaon district have returned positive results, the local administrative head, Vijay Singhal, told the BBC.

Over 70,000 chickens in the region are to be slaughtered, officials say.

Hundreds of thousands of birds were destroyed in Maharashtra after India's first bird flu outbreak last month.

The virus later spread to some poultry farms in the neighbouring Gujarat state.

There have still been no reported cases of the virus in humans in India - 95 samples collected from people with flu-like symptoms last month tested negative for bird flu.

The fresh cases have been detected in poultry in four villages of Jalgaon district, federal farm minister Sharad Pawar told parliament on Tuesday.

"We are dealing with the situation on a war footing," Mr Singhal said.

Sixty teams have been deployed in the villages to begin the mass slaughter of chickens.

Farmers are to be paid 40 rupees (almost a dollar) in compensation for each bird.

Medical teams will also be sent to the villages and their surrounding areas on Thursday to carry out checks and treat anyone suspected to be infected with the bird flu virus.

Sales fall

The detection of bird flu in India last month led to sharp falls in the sale of poultry and poultry products.

India's parliament, military, railways and major airlines temporarily stopped serving chicken and eggs, despite government reassurances that they were safe to eat if cooked properly.

The virus does not at present pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

However since 2004 about 100 people have died of the H5N1 strain - most of then in South-East Asia.

Experts fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

Understanding Avian Influenza