KOLKATA, India, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Authorities in eastern India fighting an outbreak of bird flu in poultry said on Sunday that there were no fresh reports of bird deaths but that the virus could still spread to new areas.
"The situation appears to be slowly coming under control, but we are still waiting for test reports of dead bird samples from a few other places," Anisur Rahaman, the animal resources minister for West Bengal, said on Sunday.
"It could still spread further," he added.
India’s government says laboratory tests have confirmed the H5N1 flu virus strain in at least two of West Bengal’s 19 districts, but said reports from 9 other districts were likely to be the same.
Experts fear the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form easily transmitted from person to person, leading to a pandemic.
Officials they were relieved as there no fresh bird deaths in the last two days in the state of 80 million people. There have also been no reported cases of humans being infected by the virus,
"But we are still checking sick people and poultry for bird flu and trying to stop the virus from hitting the bigger cities," Rahaman said.
Hundreds of policemen and veterinary staff were checking trucks carrying chickens and eggs to the state capital, Kolkata, one of India’s biggest cities.
Authorities have banned dozens of poultry farms from sending products to Kolkata, barring a select 14, officials said.
"These farms can still send chickens to the city in sealed containers, but only after carrying out medical tests," Rahaman said.
Health officials continued to check markets for sick chickens and ducks on Sunday, but most people were opting for lambs and fish.
"I am virtually ruined," Nizam Ali, a poultry trader told a local television channel.
"I have sold just two chickens on a Sunday, compared to nearly a hundred last week," he said.
Neighbouring Bangladesh, struggling to contain bird flu, has banned the sale of poultry and eggs in several districts as the deadly virus spread to more farms in the country, livestock ministry officials said on Sunday.
The border guard has been put on high alert so that sick fowls cannot be smuggled from India and Myanmar, officials said.
Dhaka’s city authority has asked residents not to buy chickens and ducks from the vendors as a precautionary measure.
So far, 27 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts have been affected by bird flu since the H5N1 strain was first detected in March last year. (Reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)