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Fresh bird flu case in China, India on alert
Updated: 2005-10-26 15:42

In populous India, officials are trying to find out what killed 10 migratory birds in West Bengal state, a state minister said on Wednesday.


"We are not taking any chances and have sent the blood samples for avian flu tests," West Bengal Animal Resources Development Minister Anisur Rahaman told Reuters.

West Bengal forest officials said around 40 dead birds had been found in one of the state's five bird sanctuaries in the past week, but added that the birds could have died after falling from their nests during a storm.

West Bengal receives, among other migratory birds, the Bar-headed Goose and the Great Cormorant -- species already reported to be carriers of H5N1.

A federal health official said all 29 Indian states had been asked to take blood samples of dead birds found at nesting sites.

Australia, which has not reported any cases of bird flu in birds or people, is taking blood samples from migratory birds.

The government said on Wednesday it is has strengthened quarantine practices for nations exporting birds to the country, requiring proof that birds have not been exposed to bird flu.

As the virus spreads, world governments are refining plans to tackle a pandemic and cope with the huge potential costs in human lives, trade and economic output.

The Asian Development Bank says even a relatively mild pandemic could cost Asia up to $110 billion from the effects of reduced consumption, investment and trade.

But in preliminary figures released ahead of a major report this week, the bank says that figure could more than double in a more severe outbreak, triggering a global recession and costing the region $250 billion to $290 billion in the short term.

The United Nations says more must be done to stop the virus spreading among birds in Asia, where farmers often live close to birds and livestock, making it much easier for humans to be infected with the virus.

Humans, along with pigs, horses and cows, are ideal mixing vessels to create a mutant form of bird flu that could easily pass among people.

In Sri Lanka, where chicken curry is one of the staple dishes, officials are stepping up spot checks on poultry farms and wild birds ahead of its migratory bird season.

"We are intensifying our surveillance ... especially because of the migratory bird season," said S.K.R. Amarasekara, head of the animal production and health department of the Livestock Ministry. "The bad period is until February or March."

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