Himachal takes steps to check spread of bird flu to poultry

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Shimla, Jan 5 (PTI) A day after samples of dead migratory birds at Pong Dam Lake in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district tested positive for bird flu, the state Animal Husbandry Department officials on Tuesday scrambled to check its spread to poultry.

The number of migratory birds, mostly bar-headed geese, found dead in the lake area rose to 2,700 on Tuesday even as counting of more carcasses was still on.

'Our priority at this stage is to ensure that the infection does not spread from migratory birds to poultry,' state Animal Husbandry Department Deputy Director (Epidemiology) Munish Batta said.

Rapid response teams have started collecting samples of poultry from surveillance zone in a 10-kilometer radius from the periphery of the lake, which has backyard poultry farms as well as a few larger ones, he added.

Fortunately, there has so far been no report of any unusual sickness or death among the poultry in the area, he added.

As a precautionary measure, poultry samples are being sent to the Northern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (NRDDL) in Jalandhar in Punjab, he said.

On Monday, Kangra District Magistrate Rakesh Prajapati prohibited slaughtering, sale, purchase and export of any poultry, birds, fish of any breed and their related products, including eggs, meat, chicken in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora sub-divisions of the district.

Exercising his powers under Sections 34 of the Disaster Management Act, the official said shops selling these products would also remain closed in these four sub-divisions.

Prajapati also banned the movement of locals and tourists within a one-kilometre radius of Pong Dam.

Batta said the national bird flu action plan had been set in motion in the state. The frontline field staff have been provided with adequate PPE kits and preventive medicines, he added.

The state Animal Husbandry Department also made a presentation on avian influenza at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur here on Tuesday.

The cabinet advised the department to ensure adequate availability of medicines specific to the avian flu and PPE kits for staff.

The state cabinet also advised strict enforcement of restrictions on movement imposed on Monday by the Kangra DM.

Bird flu is a highly infectious and severe respiratory disease in birds caused by the H5N1 influenza virus, which can occasionally infect humans as well. PTI DJI CK