Indians Keep Birds Despite Outbreak

KOLKATA, India -- Villagers at the center of a bird flu outbreak in India's east refused to hand over their chickens and ducks for culling on Thursday, hampering efforts to stamp out the disease.

But in neighboring Bangladesh the culling of thousands of fowl went smoothly after the virus was detected in three more districts.

In both countries, the virus seemed to be spreading, with fresh bird deaths reported from new areas. Neither country has reported any human infections.

Veterinary workers coaxed villagers at the center of an outbreak in India's West Bengal state to hand over their poultry and observe hygiene practices needed to limit the spread of what the World Health Organization says is the worst bird flu outbreak in India.

The latest outbreak in West Bengal has affected three districts, but officials said the infection could be more widespread as they waited for test results of more birds.

In the quarantined West Bengal village of Margram, villagers said their birds were not infected and that they were unhappy with a dollar-a-bird compensation.

Many let loose their ducks and chickens so that veterinary workers would have difficulty catching and killing them.

"We have asked our officers to resolve all disputes and speed up culling," said Sanchita Bakshi, a West Bengal health official.

West Bengal had said Wednesday that it could take up to a week to cull 400,000 birds. Only a few thousand had been killed a day later.

Bangladesh culled nearly 25,000 birds after the infection spread to three districts of Borguna, Rajshahi and Jessore, a livestock ministry official said.

Fowl was also culled in the southern coastal district of Barisal as the virus spread to 25 of Bangladesh's 64 districts since the detection of H5N1 strain in March last year.

Suspected outbreaks were reported at a farm in northern Rangpur district, where the virus has resurfaced.

The latest outbreak of the H5N1 strain in West Bengal's poultry, the fourth in India since 2006, has killed more than 35,000 chickens and birds.