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Nepal Reports First Bird Flu Cases Among Poultry

Nepal is confirming bird flu in poultry has been detected for the first time in the Himalayan nation. This follows outbreaks last month in Bangladesh and India.

Several Nepalese government ministries confirm the first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus in birds in the country. But they say they have no reports of the virus affecting humans.

The outbreak, which killed chickens and ducks, is at a farm in the southern town of Kakarvitta, bordering the Indian state of West Bengal.

An Indian consultant to the poultry industry, Amit Sachdev, tells VOA that after recent bird flu outbreaks in West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh, it was inevitable Nepal would see its own cases.

"It's all porous borders. There is a huge movement of chicken, chicks and people in those areas," he said. "So it does not just come as a surprise. It was bound to happen and it has just happened."

India has culled millions of chickens and ducks since its first outbreaks in 2006.

Following an emergency cabinet meeting Friday in Kathmandu, Nepal's government ordered poultry slaughtered within a three-kilometer radius of Kakarvitta, 480 kilometers east of the capital.

Poultry expert Sachdev says the culling should be merely the first counteraction Nepal takes.

"The second step would be cleaning that whole area because the virus can remain in the feathers or in the dead birds and on the feces," Sachdev explained. "We know that there could be some smuggling around - that farmers who don't want their birds to be killed would take [them] to other areas. But if those birds are infested or infected that would be a major issue."

Nepal banned poultry imports from India last year after outbreaks of H5N1 here. But officials acknowledge chickens are still routinely smuggled across the border.

Avian influenza is a major concern to health experts. They worry the H5N1 strain could mutate or combine with the seasonal human influenza virus, triggering a global pandemic killing millions of people. The virus, according to the World Health Organization, has killed about 250 people since resurfacing six years ago in Asia.