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Bird flu outbreak: States on alert, thousands of poultry to be culled

Several states on Tuesday sounded an alert to contain the H5N8 strain of bird flu and sent samples for testing while Kerala began culling of chickens and ducks.

Bird flu outbreak: States on alert, thousands of poultry to be culled

New Delhi

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu stepped up surveillance and formed guidelines following the outbreak of the viral infection in neighbouring Kerala, where around 1,700 ducks have died due to the flu.

In Haryana, over four lakh poultry birds have died at farms in Panchkula district in the past 10 days, officials said, adding a team from Jalandhar's Regional Disease Diagnosis Laboratory has collected samples. There are no confirmed reports of avian influenza till now, a RDDL spokesperson said.

In Madhya Pradesh, officials said that 155 dead crows in Indore have been found with the H5N8 strain since the pathogen was first detected in the city a week back, while in Rajasthan, after Jhalwar, birds in Kota and Baran were found with the infection. However, no cases have been reported yet in Maharashtra, which shares borders with Madhya Pradesh.

Officials in Himachal Pradesh surveyed the area around the Pong Dam Lake sanctuary in Kangra district to check the spread of the flu to domestic poultry birds, a day after samples of dead migratory birds there tested positive for H5N8. Till now, 2,700 migratory birds, mostly bar-headed geese, have been found dead in the lake area and samples have been sent for testing, state animal husbandry officials said.

The operation to cull birds in and around a one-km radius of the affected areas in Alappuzha and Kottayam in Kerala was launched a day after results of samples tested at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal confirmed the outbreak of the bird flu in the two districts. Rapid response teams, set up by the administration, began culling ducks, hens and other domestic birds as per guidelines, officials said.

Culling of birds in four panchayats of Nedumudi, Thakazhy, Pallippad and Karuvatta in Kuttanad region, where the outbreak has been reported, is expected to be completed by Wednesday evening, Alappuzha district authorities said. In Karuvatta panchayat alone, around 12,000 birds will be culled, an official said.

In the affected areas of Neendoor panchayat in Kottayam district, the rapid response teams have culled some 3,000 birds so far, authorities said. On a farm in Neendoor, around 1,700 ducks had died due to the viral infection. Officials have said around 40,000 domestic birds, including 34,000 in the Kuttanad region alone, will be culled to check the spread of the H5N8 virus.

Though the situation has been brought under control, authorities have sounded a high alert in the districts, considering the potential of the virus to infect humans. The Alappuzha district collector has banned the use and trade of meat, eggs and waste of domestic birds, including ducks and chicken, in Kuttanad and Karthikappalli Taluks, officials said.

In Indore, the presence of bird flu was first detected on December 29, when about 50 crows were found dead on the Daly College campus of the Residency area, and tests run on two of the carcasses confirmed the presence of the pathogen. Madhya Pradesh veterinary department deputy director Pramod Sharma said 155 crows were detected with the H5N8 virus in the Residency area in the last eight days.

The deadly avian influenza has not been found in any other bird species apart from crows in Indore so far, he said. ''Samples from 120 live hens and roosters from the area and 30 migratory birds from Sirpur Lake have been sent to a laboratory in Bhopal to check for bird flu. The reports are awaited,'' Sharma said.

Survey is being carried out in the Residency area to check people with symptoms like cold, cough and fever, a state health department official said but added that no case of the H5N8 infection has been found in humans. Jammu and Kashmir sounded an alert and started collecting samples to check the health of winged guests flocking to the Union territory during winters, officials said as neighbouring Himachal Pradesh reported cases of bird flu.

Joint teams of the animal husbandry and wildlife departments on Tuesday visited the Gharana wetland in the outskirts of Jammu and collected 25 bird droppings for testing to ascertain whether any of the birds are infected with the avian influenza, officials said. Following the bird flu outbreak in neighbouring Kerala, the Tamil Nadu stepped up surveillance on inter-state borders and announced a contingency plan for the management of possible human cases.

''The avian influenza spreads rapidly, there could be a likelihood of humans getting affected. So, as a precaution, the directorate general of health services has evolved a contingency plan for the management of human cases,'' Tamil Nadu health secretary J Radhakrishnan said. Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar directed officers in border districts to remain vigilant in the view of avian flu outbreak in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. He said guidelines will be issued to all districts for necessary action.

In Himachal Pradesh, teams have started collecting samples of poultry from an area of 10-km radius from the periphery of the Pong Dam Lake, animal husbandry deputy director Munish Batta said. ''Our priority is to ensure that the infection does not spread from migratory birds to domestic poultry,'' he added.

There has so far been no report of any unusual sickness or death among poultry birds, Batta said. Officials in Rajasthan said samples sent from Kota and Baran have been found positive with H5N8.

State animal husbandry minister Lal Chand Kataria said avian influenza has been found only in Jhalawar, Kota and Baran. Till Tuesday, 625 birds have died in 16 districts. Also, 86 samples have been sent for testing, officials said.

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