Bird flu: Culling of chickens, ducks starts in Kerala; Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and J&K on alert
Kerala 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
New Delhi: Culling of chickens and ducks began on Tuesday in parts of Kerala to contain the H5N8 strain of bird flu, while Jammu and Kashmir sounded an alert and started collecting samples from migratory species after Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh reported cases of avian influenza.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have 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 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 on Tuesday 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 the 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 the 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 29 December, 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.
The 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 neighboring 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 avian influenza, officials said.
Following the bird flu outbreak in neighbouring Kerala, Tamil Nadu stepped up surveillance on inter-state borders and announced a contingency plan for the management of possible human cases.
"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 Dr K Sudhakar directed health officers in border districts of the state to remain vigilant in the view of the avian flu outbreaks in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. He also said guidelines would be issued to all the districts to take necessary action.
In Himachal Pradesh, rapid response 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 (epidemiology) Dr Munish Batta said.
"Our priority at this stage is to ensure that the infection does not spread from migratory birds to domestic poultry," he added.
Fortunately, there has so far been no report of any unusual sickness or death among the poultry in the area, Batta said.
Officials in Rajasthan said that samples sent from Kota and Baran district have been found positive with avian influenza.
State agriculture and animal husbandry department minister Lal Chand Katariaheld said that avian influenza has been found in three districts of the state: Jhalawar, Kota, and Baram.
Till Tuesday morning, 625 birds have died in 16 districts of the state. Also, 86 samples from 11 districts have been sent for testing, officials said.
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In the first phase on Sunday, 1,227 panchayats had gone to polls, while voting will be held for 1,137 panchayats in the third and final phase on Thursday
Although animal Husbandry and Dairying Minister Giriraj Singh said there have been no scientific reports on transmission of bird flu to humans and consumers should not be scared, prices and demand for poultry and eggs has fallen in several states.
Samples collected from the dead birds have been sent to the forest department for further action, according to a wildlife warden.