India’s Health officials hope to prevent the spread of H5N1 bird flu virus

Health officials wearing full-body protective suits slaughtered hundreds of thousands of chickens in western India for a second day Monday, hoping to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

More than 200,000 chickens were culled since early Sunday in Navapur, a major poultry farming region, where the H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in some of 30,000 dead chickens, said Anees Ahmed, the Maharashtra state minister for animal husbandry.

Heavy earth movers were used to dig deep pits at poultry farms in Navapur where workers dumped more than 200,000 bird carcasses along with the gloves, goggles and blue gowns used by health teams. The pits were coated with chemicals, including disinfectant, before dirt was shoveled over them.

"Culling took place on a war footing," Ahmed said.

The government has said it plans to slaughter some 500,000 birds within a 3-kilometer (1.5-mile) radius.

Local officials near the affected area, meanwhile, reported a 27-year-old poultry farm owner had died of bird-flu-like symptoms, though tests had yet to determine what killed him.

"At this juncture we can only suspect that the cause of his death could be bird flu," Surat district officer Vatsala Vasudev told the Press Trust of India news agency, adding officials were still waiting for tests to be completed.

Samples from at least eight people hospitalized for flu-like symptoms near Navapur were also being tested Sunday at The National Institute of Virology. Milind Gore, the institute's deputy director, said results were expected in three days.

On Monday, health workers went house-to-house in the region checking people for signs of the flu and to make sure farmers were disposing of the carcasses properly in the disinfected pits, reports the AP.


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