( dpa ) - India on Tuesday confirmed a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu in its eastern state of West Bengal, where nearly 28,000 chicken and poultry have died in the past few days, media reports said.
Officials told the NDTV network that H5N1, the strain of bird flu that can be deadly in humans, had killed thousands of chickens and other birds in the northern Birbhum and south Dinajpur districts.
In all, over 28,000 birds had died in the affected areas in the last 10 days - 18,000 of them on Monday alone.
Meanwhile, authorities in West Bengal said they had already made arrangements for mass culling of birds in anticipation of the official confirmation of avian influenza.
The culling of an estimated 350,000 birds will be carried out within a 5-kilometre radius of the affected areas and villages will be quarantined. Neighbouring districts were put on alert.
In a related development, the federal government asserted that it had already taken steps so that the virus is not spread to humans.
Medical teams had already reached the district and would monitor people for flu-like symptoms. As many as 50 rapid response teams were in the area, along with with masks and anti-bird flu tablets.
West Bengal borders Bangladesh, 21 of whose 64 districts have been affected by bird flu. No human cases of the disease have been found in either Bangladesh or India.
India, however, has seen three outbreaks of bird flu in poultry since 2006. Cases of bird flu were last detected in the north-eastern state of Manipur in 2007. All the outbreaks were brought under control.
Avian influenza cases have been reported in 60 countries over the past four years. Most of the 216 human deaths from the disease since 2003 have been reported from Asia, with the highest number of fatalities seen in Indonesia and Vietnam.