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Reports of bird flu in neighbouring Bangladesh has sent the Tripura government into an overdrive to pre-empt any possibility of an outbreak in the state.

BSF jawans posted along the border with Bangladesh are on high alert to prevent smuggling of chicken infected with the H5N1 strain virus from that country.

The government has formed 71 special four-member teams headed by doctors from the animal resource department to inspect 2,300 registered poultry farms across Tripura.

The animal husbandry doctors and technical staff posted in 15 veterinary hospitals, 56 dispensaries and 385 sub-centres have also been asked to remain on high alert.

“We are organising a seminar and workshop for our doctors in the first week of April with specialists in animal resource development from New Delhi and West Bengal,” said Narayan Das, director of the animal resource department.

A senior animal husbandry specialist from Delhi, M. Dandapada, and three others from West Bengal will arrive here on Tuesday to address the seminar and train local animal husbandry doctors on ways to prevent an outbreak of bird flu.

“We did this earlier as well as when there was a bird flu outbreak in Maharashtra and Gujarat. So we are not entirely ignorant of the ways and means of fighting the menace,” he said.

Das, however, said his department was short of 281 doctors and handicapped by the absence of dispensaries and sub-centres in several the panchayats of the state. “So, we have told our existing staff to work harder and cover all the villages.”

He also confirmed reports of an outbreak of bird flu in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“We are worried mainly because we have a 856-km porous border with Bangladesh and more than a lakh chicken are smuggled in from Bangladesh every month.”

Fear of bird flu has led to a steep fall in the price of chicken in the state, threatening the livelihood of more than 200,000 people who depend on poultry farming for sustenance.

Nishikanta Das, a meat-seller in Battala market, said the price of chicken has come down from Rs 80 a kg to Rs 45.

“This time we cannot survive the crisis. We suffered heavily two years back, having to sell chicken at Rs 25 or 20 a kg,” Nishikanta said. He, however, blamed the newspapers and TV channels for raising what he called a “false alarm”.

“In 2005, too, nothing happened in Tripura and this time also nothing is going to happen but we will end up as paupers because of the media,” he said.

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