Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the government had decided to start operations to cull poultry birds in West Bengal areas from where larger number of “unusual mortality” was being reported, without waiting for the final report confirming H5N1 avian influenza from the High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal.

With fresh samples from dead poultry birds in Murshidabad, Nadia and Burdwan districts of West Bengal testing “positive” for bird flu, Mr. Pawar told journalists here that because it takes up to seven days for the Bhopal laboratory to confirm the H5N1 avian influenza strain, the government would take the step of culling, to contain the problem.

He said the State had been asked to stop movement of poultry birds from Bangladesh.

On Chief Minister Budhhadeb Bhattacharjee’s remarks that the situation was “alarming,” Mr. Pawar said, “I am saying the same thing. But in the rest of the country, there is no need to panic.”

On Saturday, the Animal Husbandry department here reported a total mortality of 96,010 poultry birds in the bird flu affected districts. More than 100 Rapid Response Teams are involved in the culling operation. So far, 85,632 poultry have been culled, 58,966 eggs and 1511 kg poultry feed has been destroyed in the State.