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Originally published August 26 2008

Bird Flu Marches Through India and Indonesia

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A serious outbreak of bird flu has devastated poultry stocks and prices in India and killed 100 people in Indonesia.

The H5N1 strain of avian flu is highly lethal, but does not spread easily to humans. Health officials are concerned that it might mutate into a strain that is easily transmitted to and between humans, leading to a global health crisis.

In the Indian state of West Bengal, authorities have already killed 1.5 million birds in an attempt to contain the disease, and have plans to kill up to 1.5 million more. This would constitute a cull of 15 percent of the 20 million domestic fowl in the entire state.

Authorities are particularly worried that if not contained, the disease might spread to the West Bengali capital of Kolkata, with a population of 13.5 million people. While no cases of human H5N1 infection have been confirmed in India to date, health officials remain concerned about the possibility.

"We are worried the H5N1 virus was confirmed in samples from villages just 22 kilometers from Kolkata," said Anisur Rahaman, the West Bengal animal resources development minister.

A drastic drop in demand has caused poultry prices to fall across the country and led to a surge in illegal sales of poultry marked for culling. West Bengali officials have resorted to raiding poultry traders at night to prevent the traders from hiding birds or resisting the cull.

The government is paying farmers approximately 40 rupees ($1) per bird, about half of what each bird would fetch on the open market, even without egg sales.

In Indonesia, the government confirmed that a 23-year-old woman in the capital city of Jakarta had become the 100th person to die from bird flu, out of 124 confirmed human infections so far. It is still unknown how she contracted the disease.

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