(NaturalNews) Five people have been quarantined with symptoms of bird flu in India, in what could turn out to be the country's first human cases of the disease.
The eastern state of West Bengal is currently undergoing its third outbreak of bird flu since 2006, and more than 100,000 birds have already died from the disease. In an attempt to contain the outbreak, the government has ordered two million ducks and chickens killed.
According to the animal resources minister for West Bengal, Anisur Rahaman, the state is "determined to cull all poultry in the districts in three or four days, otherwise the state will face a disaster."
Five people experiencing clinical symptoms of bird flu, including cough, fever, muscle ache and sore throat, have been quarantined and are undergoing tests. Health officials are also analyzing blood samples from another 150 people who reported fever symptoms.
Bird flu does not spread easily to humans, and most cases arise in people who've come into close contact with infected poultry. But health experts worry that if not contained, the disease could mutate into a more dangerous form.
Authorities' efforts to cull poultry in West Bengal have been hampered by a lack of local cooperation, with villagers smuggling birds out of cull zones and selling them. The sudden glut of smuggled birds on the market has caused the price of chicken to fall from 60 rupees ($1.50) per kilogram to 20 (50 cents).
"Poor villagers are feasting on chicken. At normal times, they cannot afford to buy as prices are so high. Now they are enjoying the meat," said Sheikh Ali, a market vendor.
Experts in neighboring Bangladesh warned that their government is suppressing news of the current outbreak.
"Bird flu is now everywhere," said M.M. Khan of the Bangladesh Poultry Association. "Every day we have reports of birds dying in farms. Things are now very, very serious and public health is under danger. The government is trying to suppress the whole scenario."