PARIS (Reuters) - India reported two outbreaks of a highly contagious bird flu virus in the southern state of Kerala, the first cases of the disease in the country since February this year, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday.

The virus killed about 15,000 infected ducks in Kottayam and another 500 in nearby Alappuzha, the Paris-based OIE reported on its website, citing data submitted by the Indian ministry of agriculture.

The report said the animals died of an H5 strain of the flu virus but did not specify the exact variant.

Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have been hit this month by the H5N8 bird flu strain which has devastated flocks in Asia, mainly South Korea, earlier this year but has never been detected in humans.

Another strain, the feared H5N1, can be fatal to humans. It caused the deaths of nearly 400 people and hundreds of millions of poultry after it spread from Asia into Europe and Africa in 2005-2006.

The Indian farm ministry said that an intensive surveillance campaign had been launched in a 10 km radius zone around the area were the infected birds were found to try to ensure that it did not spread further.

 

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Keith Weir)