April 29, 2008 / 5:27 AM / 12 years ago

Nepal on flu alert, tests poultry on India border

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal has issued a bird flu alert and is testing poultry along the border with India, where the virus rages despite the culling of tens of thousands of chickens since 2006, officials said.

Nepal, which has not reported any bird flu cases, banned the import of poultry from India in January.

But it shares an open border with the Indian state of West Bengal which has reported repeated outbreaks of bird flu.

“We are always alert, especially in the border areas which have been declared as high risk zones,” Baikuntha Parajuli, chief of Nepal’s animal health directorate said on Tuesday.

Smuggling of poultry and livestock from India posed an additional threat, officials said.

Nepal has declared six eastern districts “high-risk zones” and intensified vigil on farm and backyard poultry. Ninety chicken samples were being tested.

Test results of some samples had turned negative for avian influenza, the Himalayan Times said, quoting Surendra Yadav, a livestock official in eastern Morang district which has been classified as an extremely sensitive area.

The newspaper said veterinary teams were regularly inspecting poultry and warning people about bird flu.

Experts fear the H5NI virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people.

Since the virus resurfaced in Asia in late 2003, at least 240 people have died from bird flu in a dozen countries, the WHO says.

Reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Sanjeev Miglani

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