Hundreds of birds were reported dead in different parts of the country on Monday as the raging bird flu spread to 10 states and Union Territories, prompting several control measures and a government assurance that there are no scientific reports of the virus’ transmission to humans. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all state governments to remain alert and ensure a constant vigil near places such as water bodies, zoos and poultry farms. He expressed hope that through proper coordination between Forest, Health and Animal Husbandry Departments, “we will be able to overcome this challenge soon”. ‘
Officials also tried to allay fears of those consuming poultry products, saying there is no risk of infection from fully cooked chicken, or boiled and cooked eggs as the virus cannot withstand high temperatures. Delhi, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra on Monday confirmed bird flu cases, adding to the list of seven states — Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh — which had already reported avian deaths due to the disease.
While states announced several measures including mass culling of poultry, ban on live birds markets and restriction on chicken and related food materials, the Centre asked them not to close mandis or impede the sales of poultry products. 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. The Centre also directed states to maintain adequate stock of PPE kits and accessories required for culling operations.
The Delhi government imposed a ban on the sale of processed and packaged chicken brought from outside the city, as samples of ducks from Sanjay Lake tested positive for bird flu. “But there is no need to panic about bird flu. It is a common influenza,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said. Dr Rakesh Singh from the animal husbandry unit of the Development Department said a drive to cull ducks has begun at Sanjay Lake, where several ducks were found dead in the last few days. In neigbouring Haryana, culling of infected birds is underway to control the spread of the disease. A central team was visiting Himachal Pradesh and Panchkula for carrying out monitoring of the epicentre sites and conducting an epidemiological investigation.
The Lucknow Zoo in Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, suspended its bird exchange programme and closed its aviary for visitors after samples of a couple of bird carcasses in Kanpur Zoo were found positive. The Kanpur Zoological Park has already been closed for visitors till further orders. In Shahjahanpur’s Kalaan three ducks were found dead on Friday morning, with officials saying sample from other ducks will be sent to Bareilly for testing. In Ballia, carcasses of five crows were found on Sunday night in Sahatwar police station area.
Chief veterinary officer of the district Ashok Mishra said, “The forest department has taken all the carcasses in its custody and those were being sent to Bhopal for testing.” In Maharashtra, avian influenza has been confirmed as the cause of death of different birds in Parbhani, Mumbai, Thane, Beed and Dapoli in Maharashtra, as per test reports of a Bhopal-based lab. Parbhani Collector Deepak Muglikar told PTI that bird flu has been confirmed as the cause of death of around 900 hens at a poultry farm in Murumba village and the district administration has decided to cull nearly 8,000 birds in the village. The culling may begin from Tuesday.
According to the Bhopal-based ICAR-National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), two crows from Mumbai died due to bird flu. Three pond egrets and a parrot from Thane were infected by the H5N1 avian influenza virus, the institute’s test report said. Besides, a chicken and two herons from Parbhani too died of H5N1 avian influenza virus, while crows from Beed and Dapoli (in Ratnagiri district) were infected by H5N8 avian influenza virus, as per the report. Bird flu cases have been confirmed in Gujarat’s Surat and Vadodara districts as some samples of dead crows from there have tested positive for the avian influenza.
In Uttarakhand, nearly 200 birds, mostly crows, were found dead in Dehradun and Rishikesh, officials said. Chief Wildlife Warden JS Suhag said the samples of the dead birds have been sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly to ascertain the cause of their death. More than 30 birds were found dead at different places in and around Rishikesh, triggering a bird-flu scare in the town.