KOLKATA Authorities in West Bengal on Wednesday started culling thousands of chickens, fearing the spread of bird flu in another district after a fresh outbreak in poultry this month.
About 1,000 chickens in a state-run poultry farm in Malda district died in the last few days, prompting authorities to examine blood samples, officials said.
"We have decided to slaughter all the remaining chickens in the farm," Anisur Rahaman, West Bengal's animal resources minister, said. An outbreak of the virus was reported in neighbouring Murshidabad district earlier this month.
Poultry sales in the state dropped by about 70 percent since the avian flu hit in January, officials said, but it has had limited impact elsewhere in the country.
India has not reported any human bird flu cases so far.
"We will go for mass culling as soon as we get official confirmation," the minister said.
The strain of the latest virus was still being tested, but Rahaman said preliminary checks have indicated the H5N1 strain.
"We think it is the deadly bird flu virus."
Earlier this month the outbreak, the fifth in India since 2006, was reported in two villages of West Bengal's Murshidabad district, prompting authorities to start culling chickens after almost a month after they claimed to have contained the virus.
Officials say the virus could have originated from neighbouring Bangladesh, struggling to contain a massive outbreak.
In January, the H5N1 virus affected 13 of the state's 19 districts, including Murshidabad.
Around 3.4 million birds were culled during the last outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) described as the worst-ever in India.