Source AP ©

Federal laboratory of India to test poultry for bird flu

As thousands of chickens died in eastern India, the farm workers left a poultry farm and a federal laboratory claimed to test some of the birds for bird flu, an official and a news report said Tuesday.

More than 2,500 chickens died at a farm in the Darjeeling region in recent days, said Rajesh Pandey, the region's top government official.

Some of the dead chickens have been sent to a federal testing center in the central Indian city of Bhopal, Pandey said, adding that the other dead birds will be buried.

"We don't know what has caused the deaths of the chickens, but we are not taking any chances," he told The Associated Press by the telephone. "We are not drawing any conclusion, but we are on full alert."

Health officials discovered the dead birds after neighbors complained of a stench coming from the farm, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The farm workers had fled, PTI said.

India confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in the west last year, but declared itself bird flu free after culling hundreds of thousands of chickens. No human cases were reported.

H5N1 has jumped to humans in several outbreaks worldwide, largely in Asia, since late 2003, killing at least 172 people, according to the World Health Organization.