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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 05:34 GMT
Poultry ban lifted in India state
An affected poultry in West Bengal
Poultry farmers have been badly affected
Authorities in the Indian state of West Bengal have lifted a ban on sale of poultry after declaring that the bird flu epidemic was under control.

Thirteen of the state's 19 districts were hit by bird flu in what the World Health Organisation called the most serious outbreak yet in South Asia.

Over three millions birds were culled and sale of poultry was banned.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu is regarded as highly pathogenic and can also cause disease and death in humans.

There have been no reports of human infections in West Bengal since the bird flu was first reported last month, state officials said.

Egg exports have dropped and the loss to the poultry industry is believed to be around $20 million, trade officials said.

'Under control'

"This is a disaster. We do not know how we will recover, but the lifting of the ban should help," Nazrul Islam of the West Bengal Poultry Welfare Association said.

Officials say the outbreak was now no longer in danger of spreading.

"Culling is over and we are now conducting mopping up operations in the infected areas," state animal husbandry minister Anisur Rehman said.

Disinfecting villages affected by avian influenza could continue for several weeks, he said.

"But the overall situation is totally under control."

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