updated 12/15/2008 8:46:36 PM ET 2008-12-16T01:46:36

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in samples taken from dead chickens in eastern India.

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It was the second outbreak of bird flu in India's West Bengal state and came as several thousand birds have been slaughtered in the neighboring state of Assam, where authorities have been battling an outbreak for several weeks.

Tests from samples taken from the village of Lorhata, some 220 miles (354 kilometers) northeast of Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, showed the presence of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, said Sirthar Kumar Ghosh, a local official, on Monday.

Ghosh said authorities would begin slaughtering birds Tuesday. Some 3,500 birds have died in Lorhata in recent days.

India has contained several previous outbreaks of the disease, including in West Bengal in January, when they slaughtered some 4 million birds.

No humans in India are known to have caught the disease, which has killed at least 246 people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Bird flu remains difficult for humans to catch, but experts fear the virus might mutate into a new form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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