Bird Flu scare escalates as 64 avian deaths reported in Delhi, 18 die in Gwalior; killer strain is H5N8

The strain (H5N8) of bird flu is not as dangerous for humans as it is for birds. There has been no report of it affecting humans across the world.

FP Staff October 24, 2016 18:55:03 IST
Bird Flu scare escalates as 64 avian deaths reported in Delhi, 18 die in Gwalior; killer strain is H5N8

On Monday, six more ducks were found dead at the Hauz Khas deer park, which brings the total number of avian deaths in the national capital due to H5N8, to 64. The Delhi government has described this as a "sign of worry".

Delhi Animal Husbandry Minister Gopal Rai confirmed that three crows, that were found dead earlier in the Sunder Nagar area, had also succumbed to the H5N8 avial influenza strain.

As many as 17 birds died in the Deer Park on Saturday, and 10 died on Sunday. The deaths of four other birds on Monday were reported from a lake behind Shakti Sthal near Raj Ghat in Delhi, Rai said.

He visited the deer park along with DDA officials and doctors where the death toll due to suspected H5N8 viral strain has climbed to 43. Rai formed a 10-member team to spray anti-virus in the area, including on birds.

Bird Flu scare escalates as 64 avian deaths reported in Delhi 18 die in Gwalior killer strain is H5N8

A private security guard wearing a mask stands next to a notice tied to a gate of the Deer Park which according to local media is temporarily closed to visitors as a precautionary measure after 58 birds died in New Delhi due to bird flu. Reuters

"The strain (H5N8) is not as dangerous for humans as it is for birds. There has been no report of it affecting humans across the world. Monitoring is being done across Delhi's parks and bird sanctuaries. The government is planning to issue a health advisory as well," Rai said.

Meanwhile, three more painted storks died at the zoo in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, taking the number of birds suspected to have been killed by a new sub-type of bird flu to 18.

Three more birds are critical and may soon succumb, an official said. With at least two samples of the 15 painted storks that died earlier this week testing positive for the subtype H5N8 at the Bhopal-based Animal Disease Laboratory recently, the MP government has sounded an alert across the state, directing all 51 districts to immediately report any fowl mortality.

Seeking to allay concerns over a possible bird flu outbreak, the officer said, "There is no need to panic as the death (of painted storks) due to H5N8 virus has taken place in the wild (zoo)."

The, Gwalior Municipal Commissioner Anay Dwivedi told PTI that with these deaths, only six painted storks were left in the zoo enclosure and three of them are in critical condition.

Citing veterinarians, he said the storks may die soon. "The rest (three storks) too appear to be sick and may succumb tomorrow," he said.

Governments kick up defence mechanism

Although the virus is not directly a threat to human health, the state governments in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh have issued advisories to the zoo administration to monitor the situation very closely.

In Delhi, Animal Husbandry Minister Gopal Rai put out a health advisory, in which the recommendation include a suggestion avoid eating of raw or half-boiled eggs and meat.

Rai on Monday held a meeting of the coordination committee in the Delhi Secretariat to consider further action on checking the spread of H5N8 influenza virus.

He ordered all government departments to spread "chuna" (lime powder) around every water body.

The minister also ordered them to spray antivirus Sodium Hypochlorite around all water bodies where birds gather.

Both the zoo and the DDA-run deer park continue to remain shut due to the bird flu scare. The city government's coordination committee, formed to tackle the situation, will meet on Tuesday. Rai said the water of the deer park will be sent to the Bhopal laboratory to be tested.

The Delhi government had also set up a 23-member committee to coordinate work among various departments and to probe the reasons behind the bird deaths since last week.

"Also, we have decided to build a medicated subway at the entry gate in the market which will have medicines mixed with water. Every truck entering the market will have to pass through this water which will help in preventing the infection from spreading," Rai said.

On Thursday, the government had taken 50 samples from birds in the zoo, various bird sanctuaries and poultry markets in the city and sent them to labs for analysis. Both the Delhi zoo and the Deer Park will remain shut until normalcy returns.

The first deaths of two migratory birds were reported on 14 October in the Delhi Zoo, where six more birds were found dead the next day. One more bird each died on 17 and 19 October.

According to a report in The Hindu, an alert has been sounded in Rajasthan as well and the state's forest department will also conduct a survey on the recent deaths of birds in the forest areas.

Madhya Pradesh Animal Husbandry department also confirmed that an alert has been sounded in the state.  "We have sounded alert across the state. However, no fowl death has been reported from any part of state. Officers concerned are keeping a close watch," Madhya Pradesh Animal Husbandry Director Dr RK Rokde said.

To a query on culling the birds, The Gwalior Municipal Commissioner Anay Dwivedi said they will take the call in this regard later, depending upon the situation. The commissioner said they were burning the dead fowls and burring them deep underground.

"Three falcons which were in the enclosure along with the painted storks, have been quarantined and they will be closely monitored for a month. These falcons are healthy," the commissioner added.

On reopening the zoo, closed since the death of 15 painted storks, the officer said, "Possibly, we won't open it for this entire month (October)."

According to 2012 census, MP had a population of 119 lakh domestic fowls. He said the state has 400-odd private poultry farms and nine government ones.

According to Rokde, a hen had died of bird flu in Burhanpur district of state in February this year. Sources said that around 9,000 fowls had been culled in the radius of one km from the area where the hen had died.

The Union Environment Ministry has also formed a three-member panel to keep a watch over the developments.

With inputs from agencies

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