India reports first case of bird flu

India’s first case of bird flu has been reported in a western town where thousands of birds have died in recent days, a government official said today.

It was not immediately clear whether it was the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease.

“We will start culling the birds from today,” said Uttam Khobragade, a top livestock official in Maharashtra state, who said 30,000 birds had died in the town of Navapur in the poultry-farming district of Nandurbar over the past two weeks.

“Tests initially indicated that the birds may died due to Newcastle Disease,” Khobragade told reporters, referring to another deadly bird illness. “However, further tests have confirmed that bird flu was the cause of the deaths.”

Bird flu has killed 91 people in Turkey and in Asia since 2003, with most victims infected directly by sick birds, according to the World Health Organisation.

Scientists fear the H5N1 virus could mutate to a form more easily passed between humans and spark a human flu pandemic.

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