SUBJECT :Bird flu 

The Central Government today notified the outbreak of Avian Influenza in captive ducks and geese at Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh, putting into operation the bird flu prevention and surveillance plan to sanitise the affected area and prevent the infection from spreading.

The UT Administration late this evening began culling and destroying around 150 ducks and geese on the island in the lake after the Animal Husbandry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed H5N1 (highly pathogenic avian influenza) and instructed the administration to cull the birds.

Culling was restricted to the lake, where at least one sample of the dead geese tested positive for bird flu at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal. Migratory birds in and around the lake will not be culled, officials said.

The operation was jointly launched by the Animal Husbandry Department, Forest and Wildlife Department and Chandigarh Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) under the supervision of Prince Dhawan, Director, UT Animal Husbandry Department.

Rajbir Singh Rana, Joint Secretary (Livestock Health), Animal Husbandry, and the nodal officer for the animal disease outbreaks in the country, said the lake would have to be sanitised for three months as part of the surveillance plan to end the infection.

“We have notified the outbreak of H5N1 in captive ducks and geese at Sukhna Lake and the culling operations are on. We are also sending an alert on avian influenza in Chandigarh to the World Organization for Animal Health. The next step after the culling operations will be to sanitise the area and undertake active surveillance for three months,” Rana said.

“The movement around the lake will remain restricted for a month to begin with and possibly for three months, which is our normal drill as part of the surveillance programme. The idea is to sanitise the area,” he said.

The Animal Husbandry Department said samples of the lake water will also be screened to rule out infection. “Teams from our Bhopal lab will be sent for environmental sampling of water and droppings of infected birds at Sukhna Lake. The future course of action will depend on the results of those samplings,” Rana said.

Around 60 samples taken from migratory birds have come out negative at a Jalandhar laboratory. The samples of around 25 ducks at Golf Club in Chandigarh were also negative.

Anup Kumar Thakur, secretary, Animal Husbandry, said there was no reason to panic since the infection was localised around the Sukhna island. “The scale of the problem in Chandigarh is not the same as was reported recently in Kerala. We are keeping a close watch,” Thakur said.

Dr Lovelesh Kant Gupta, Joint Director, UT Animal Husbandry Department, and nodal officer for the operation, said the island would have to be kept out of bounds for people for a year.

On consumption of eggs or poultry products, he said the avian influenza virus vanished if the food was cooked at 70 degree heat. “Once you cook your chicken or eggs properly, there is no problem,” he said. The UT Administration will send its report on culling to the Centre tomorrow.

The Ministry of Health dispatched a central team to assess public health consequences of the culling operations and bird flu in and around Sukhna. The central team will assist the team engaged in culling and watch out for respiratory tract infections in the population within a 3-km radius of the lake.

Agriculture Ministry officials said no organised poultry farms had been found in the 1-km radius of the lake and there was no reason to panic on account of poultry products.The Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO), North Region, has stopped the supply of eggs and birds for the next 30 days as a precautionary measure. 

The CPDO supplies hatching eggs to government-owned organisations of nine states, including Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, HP, Rajasthan, besides selling chicken and egg among public. 

Punjab has initiated precautionary measures, including special surveillance of poultry farms and survey of suspect areas in Kansal and Naya Gaon. All poultry and related products entering the state will be checked. Dr Harinderjit Singh Sandha, Director Animal Husbandry, said no unusual avian deaths had been reported.

The Haryana Government has directed the health authorities to conduct surveillance in the peripheral areas of Panchkula. Any patient with bird flu symptoms will be isolated at the General Hospital, Panchkula.

The Wildlife Department of Himachal has put its officials on alert. Vigil is being kept at Pong Dam in Kangra and Renuka Lake in Sirmaur. Directions have been issued to officials at the Pong Dam to collect fresh dropping of birds.

Earlier, officials of the UT Administration held meetings after they received a letter from the Centre that read: “This has a reference to a report of mortality in ducks at Sukhna Lake. The sample from a dead duck was sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal and has been found positive for H5N1 virus.

Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh