Bird flu alert: Samples collected from domestic poultry around Himachal’s Pong wetland sent for testing

Himachal officials say no unusual death among poultry has occurred here so far

AROUND 120 samples of domestic poultry birds have been collected from around the Pong wetland in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and sent for testing for avian influenza or bird flu, state animal husbandry officials said Wednesday. Nearly 3,000 migratory water birds have been found dead in and around the Pong Dam Lake since December 28. On Monday, samples of dead birds found in the area had tested positive for avian influenza.

Officials said that no unusual death among the poultry has occurred here so far, but if the samples test positive, all poultry birds in backyard farms within a kilometre of the lake’s periphery will have to be culled, and commercial farms in the area disinfected. Kangra Additional District Magistrate Rohit Rathour Wednesday directed officials to identify at least one site in each sub-division of the district for the safe disposal/burial of dead birds. The district chief medical officer had earlier been asked to ensure stockpiling of necessary preventive medicines, PPE kits, keep vigil on human transmission of the suspected bird flu and keep ready details of the testing labs.

Wildlife staff deployed in other wetlands of the state, including the Renuka wetland in Sirmaur and Rewalsar lake in Mandi, have been put on high alert, and officials in all parts of the state have been asked to maintain a record of mortality or sickness of birds in their jurisdiction. The central government has also advised the state to take measures to avoid the spread of the disease to poultry.

The Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has set up a control room in New Delhi to keep watch on the bird flu situation in the country and take stock on a daily basis of the preventive and control measures undertaken by the state authorities, the ministry said in a statement.

“The measures suggested to affected states to contain the disease and prevent further spread as per the Action Plan on Avian Influenza include strengthening the biosecurity of poultry farms, disinfection of affected areas, proper disposal of dead birds/carcasses, timely collection and submission of samples for confirmation and further surveillance, intensification of surveillance plan as well as the general guidelines for prevention of disease spread from affected birds to poultry and humans. Coordination with forest department for reporting any unusual mortality of birds was also suggested to the states. The other states were also requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures,” the statement further said.

It said that in India, bird flu spreads mainly by migratory birds coming into the country during winter months.

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