At least 11 chickens were found dead under unusual circumstances near the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) at Hesarghatta near here, raising fears of the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) outside the CPDO where the outbreak of the avian flu has been notified by the Union government.

According to sources, 11 chickens of the 20 that Manikyappa Ramanna had in his farm in Hesarghatta were found dead, while three chicks and five hens belonging to Manjamma in Vinayakanagar were found dead on Saturday night.

Soon after hearing the news, sources said, veterinarians rushed to these spots and collected samples, which were sent to the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB) here.

“Samples have been sent to IAHVB. If the results prove that the birds died of avian influenza, we have to take more stringent action that could include culling of birds in the 10-km surveillance area,” Principal Secretary of Animal Husbandry Arvind Jannu told The Hindu. He said: “We do not want to be liberal about the loss of business. If we are liberal, the result will be disastrous.”

He said that checks have been intensified in private farms outside the CPDO. “Random samples are being taken in the surveillance zone that has about 1.5 lakh birds,” he said and added that the sanitisation process of the CPDO was still continuing. He said that sanitisation certification for CPDO is expected in three days and a portion of the poultry feed was still to be cleared.

However, the news of the unusual death outside the CPDO comes as bad news for the poultry industry, which is trying to get the ban lifted on the movement of poultry products from Karnataka to Kerala. Mr. Jannu said that the State had written to Kerala, trying to convince that poultry from Karnataka was safe. So far, more than 33,000 birds in the CPDO have been culled after the Union government declared the outbreak of avian influenza on October 25.