From: Loren Brown, Associated Press
Published January 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Authorities Investigate the Death of Some 2,000 Chickens in Trinidad

CUMUTO, Trinidad — Trinidad's health minister called for calm Tuesday after 2,000 chickens died at several farms on this Caribbean island in the past five days, insisting that he doubts bird flu was the cause.


"There could be many reasons why those birds died. So I don't think that there's any need for panic," Health Minister John Rahael said on local television, adding that authorities were investigating.


The mass chicken deaths have occurred since Thursday in half a dozen large farms around Cumuto, 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the capital, Port-of-Spain, according to farmers who did not want to be identified because they were worried of losing contracts with customers.


Rahael said the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health were sending investigators to the farms to test the sick poultry.


"I want to give an assurance to the people of Trinidad and Tobago that in this part of the world we have not seen any indication of the bird flu know as H5N1," Rahael said. North America and the Caribbean have not to date been affected by this variant of the virus, which can kill humans.


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"It could very well be the food that the chicks were given to feed on, or even the medication. There could be many reasons why those birds died" he said.


An Associated Press reporter saw dozens of dead chickens scattered around the fields. Farmers said they had buried hundreds of dead chickens and were rounding up sick chickens to quarantine them. Those chickens have swollen stomachs, watery eyes, a lack of appetite and grayish blue skin, farmers said.


Farmers were feeding the birds with water mixed with lime juice. They said they were trying this traditional medicine because it was often used to help humans suffering from high fever.


The farmers wore no protective gear or clothing as they handled the sick birds.


Source: Associated Press


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