2,000 birds dead at several farms in Trinidad

Trinidad's health minister promised an investigation Monday after 2,000 chickens died at several farms east of the capital, Port-of-Spain, but he said he doubted the cause was bird flu. The birds have been dying since last Thursday in half a dozen large farms around Cumuto, 25 miles east of the capital, Port-of-Spain, said a farmer who did not want to be identified because he was worried of losing contracts with customers.

It was unknown if the birds died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu that has already killed more than 70 people in East Asia since 2003. "I don't want to alarm the country," said Trinidad's Health Minister John Rahael. "An immediate investigation will be launched to determine the cause of death of the birds, but I don't think it's bird flu."

An Associated Press reporter saw the dozens of dead chickens scattered around the fields. Farmers said they had buried hundreds of dead chickens in nearby fields.

Farmers were trying to round up sick chickens to keep them in quarantine away from the rest of their flocks. Those chickens have swollen stomachs, watery eyes, a lack of appetite and grayish blue skin, farmers said.

Farmers were feeding the birds with water mixed with lime juice. They said they were trying this traditional medicine because it was often used to help humans suffering from high fever. On one farm, half a dozen dead, swollen chickens with a bluish coloration could be seen piled in a bucket. The owner said he had already buried over 1000 chickens on his farm, reports the AP. I.L.

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