India prepare to cull chickens after tests for bird flu

Authorities on Wednesday prepared to cull tens of thousands of chickens in western India after four birds tested positive for the H5 bird flu virus, an official said.

Tests were still being conducted to determine whether the infected chickens had the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

But officials were nonetheless planning to press on with the slaughter of about 75,000 chickens in four villages where the outbreak was first spotted in mid-February, said Upma Chowdhary, joint secretary in the federal animal husbandry department.

Of 6,600 birds tested in the Jalgaon area of Maharashtra state, which is dotted with backyard poultry farms, four were found to have H5. The tests were conducted at a federal laboratory in the central city of Bhopal.

India reported its first bird flu outbreak, which involved H5N1, last month, in a different area of Maharashtra state. Authorities culled more than 200,000 birds after the disease was detected among chickens in Navapur town in Maharashtra and adjoining Ucchal town in Gujarat state.

It's not clear whether the two outbreaks were related. Chowdhary said it should be clear in the coming days if the latest outbreak is H5N1, reports the AP.

I.L.

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