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Bird flu outbreaks in several states spark fears

Poultry farms in Maharashtra. Concept. Scenes from inside a poultry farm in Sangli, Maharashtra. Image credit: dinodia / 123rf. Used to illustrate 2020 bird flu outbreaks in India.
Scenes from inside a poultry farm in Sangli, Maharashtra. Several states – Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan – have been affected by bird flu outbreaks, with transmission to poultry in Haryana. Image credit: dinodia / 123rf

India is witnessing bird flu outbreaks in multiple states, as the infectious disease rears its ugly head once more.

Thousands of birds are to be culled to stymie the bird flu outbreaks which have resulted in numerous birds across the country dying. Two strains of bird flu – H5N1 and H5N8 – are in the sights of authorities with samples sent to testing facilities coming back positive for the potentially lethal avian influenza strains. 

“We have received reports…from five states – Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala,” said Union Minister of State for Animal Husbandry Sanjiv Balyan, urging vigilance. “In Haryana, it has been transmitted to poultry as well otherwise the virus is found in wild and migratory birds.” There are no cases in humans yet, he said. However, the disease’s high mortality rate of sixty percent is cause for concern even though it is not easily transmissible to humans – hence the uptake of measures such as poultry culling and banning of sales.

In Himachal Pradesh alone, “the death toll in the last week or so at the Pong lake crossed 2,400 migratory birds,” said state wildlife chief Archana Sharma. “Over 600 birds died on Monday.” As reported by Times News Network, “the death of migratory birds — 2,300 till Monday — in the Pong Dam reservoir area in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh was due to avian influenza, chief conservator of forests, Dharamshala, Upasana Patiyal, confirmed on Monday. 

“As a precaution, the state government has banned the sale, purchase and slaughter of poultry in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora sub-divisions of Kangra district. Export of poultry products and fish has also been stopped.” The deaths in Himachal Pradesh were attributed to bird flu after samples were sent to the Indian National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases and tested positive for H5N1. 

“Bird flu may transmit from birds to humans,” one official in Rajasthan told The Times of India. “We have directed our officials to keep a close eye on poultry farms and other areas where birds are inhabited.”

Other nations have been hit. Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have been affected by bird flu outbreaks according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Japan and South Korea have also reported cases. Japan’s is the worst on record, with twenty of its 47 prefectures affected.

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