Mass bird deaths in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala Rajasthan and Jharkhand have prompted authorities to take remedial measures, issue alerts, and enhance surveillance, officials in the states have said.
Officials said 175 crows and other birds were reported dead across Rajasthan on Monday alone. In neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, over 500 crows have died over the last week. Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Rajasthan on Monday confirmed bird flu to be the cause of death of hundreds of birds even as several other states, including Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, sounded alerts on the disease.
The death of migratory birds — 2,300 till Monday — in the Pong Dam reservoir area of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh was due to avian influenza, chief conservator of forests, Dharamsala , Upasana Patiyal, confirmed on Monday. As a precaution, the state has banned 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 animal husbandry department staff has been directed to form rapid response teams to tackle the spread of the disease.
Kerala’s minister of forests, wildlife and animal husbandry K Raju said bird flu was reported in Kottayam and Alapuzzha and that 12,000 ducks were killed by the disease.
Authorities have been instructed to cull all birds within a 1-km radius of the areas in which it was reported. This would include all types of ornamental birds and poultry. Raju said 36,000 birds will have to be culled to avoid further spread of the disease.
Officials in Madhya Pradesh said they were mixing antibiotics in water bowls for the birds in the affected areas. In Rajasthan, expert teams have been rushed and surveillance enhanced especially around poultry farms.
Rajasthan’s animal husbandry department officials said they were collecting 10 samples each from wetlands in Rajasthan like Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur and Jaipur’s Sambhar Lake.
Over 250 bird deaths were reported dead in the state on Sunday. They include 24 pigeons in Kota.
Rajasthan’s additional director (animal husbandry) Bhawani Singh said migratory birds seem to be the possible source of the disease even as Bhopal’s National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases has confirmed the death of a bird in Jhalawar was due to bird flu. Officials said they were following the protocol and burying the birds.
Microbiologist A.K. Kataria said the mass deaths are not unusual and happen annually. “The pattern of mortality and environmental conditions suggest these deaths of crows are due to cold shock. There are no clinical signs of bird flu,” he said. He added the poultry birds are more susceptible to bird flu. “But so far no deaths of poultry have been reported.” Kataria said in 2020, too, over 300 crows were reported dead. He added dead crows are usually found under the trees. “Crows migrate to warmer areas in winter, and do not reside in residential areas.”
In Madhya Pradesh, an animal husbandry department official said birds there have died of bird flu. The state’s principal secretary (animal husbandry), J.N. Kansotia, said the situation is under control and they have sounded an alert in all districts. “We have started a sanitisation process in the affected area.”
Dr Shailesh Sakallaye, the integrated disease surveillance programme additional director, said a survey is being conducted in the affected four districts to check the impact of bird flu among humans.
Humans can be infected with avian influenza, or bird flu, primarily through direct contact and may cause disease ranging from mild fever and cough, early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia, sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death, according to the World Health Organization.