Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in on Tuesday to coordinate state governments to prevent an outbreak of bird flu from spreading in India.
The bird flu scare in West Bengal and Assam prompted the prime minister to direct the animal husbandary department to take steps to prevent an epidemic. Singh asked the department to keep a close watch on the situation and be in constant touch with state governments.
The federal government pushed local authorities to ban the movement of poultry and its products after samples tested positive for H5, according to a statement released online.
It has been decided to immediately commence the culling of birds and destruction of eggs and feed material to control further spread of the disease, the statement said.
The directive comes after bird flu, or Avian influenza, was confirmed in two villages in Nadia district in West Bengal. Samples were forwarded to the ERDDL, Kolkata and High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal where they tested positive for H5 strain of avian influenza.
West Bengal officials have been ordered to furnish a daily report on the control and containment operations.
Poultry will be culled within a three-kilometer radius of the infected area, and surveillance has been stepped up to a 10 kilometer radius, the Ministry of Agriculture said.
While it is unclear if the recent outbreak in India was related, last month, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of a possible resurgence of bird flu and said a mutant strain of H5N1 was spreading in Asia and beyond.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no vaccine for the bird flu strain that has emerged in Vietnam and China. This H5N1 strain poses a potential risk for humans.
While Avian flu does not infect humans easily, if a number of people become infected, the virus can exchange genetic material with other human flu viruses and become more human-transmissible.
Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006 and millions of chickens and ducks have been culled over the years in an attempt to contain the virus. The virus has resurfaced sporadically, often in West Bengal.