Bird flu confirmed in Gujarat, the Kharo dam birds had died due to avian flu, say officers


BIRD FLU has been confirmed in Gujarat as samples of a few of the 55 birds which were found dead at Kharo dam in Junagadh early this month tested positive for a strain of the avian flu, state government officers confirmed on Saturday morning and added that disease surveillance was intensified.

Animal husbandry department and forest department had become alert on January 2 when 53 birds were found dead on the shore of Kharo dam in Bantva village of Manavadar taluka of Junagadh district. They included 46 red-wattled lapwings, three ruffs, three northern shovelers, and one comb duck. Ruffs and northern shovelers are migratory species. Two more red-wattled lapwings had died on January 4 and samples of these birds were sent to National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh for bird flu testing. “Seventeen samples from those birds were sent to NISHAD, Bhopal and yesterday they were found positive. The confirmation report reached to Delhi and my office yesterday,” Dr Falguni Thakar, director of animal husbandry (AH) of Gujarat told The Indian Express.

This is the first reported outbreak of the avian flu in Gujarat since 2017 when the disease was confirmed in some parts of Ahmedabad.

Officers of state animal husbandry department in Junagadh had sent carcasses of he the two red-wattled lapwings which died on January 4 to NIHSAD. “Tests one of those two lapwing carcasses have also tested positive for bird flu,” Dr SN Vaghasiya, deputy director of AH in Junagadh said on Saturday.

Dr Pathak said that besides Junagadh, mass mortality of scheduled birds, especially of crows, have been reported from Vadodara, Valsad, Vyara in Tapi district and Motera near Ahmedabad district. “Samples of these birds have also been sent to Bhopal for testing and results are awaited. But the good part is that the birds which have died so far are crows, which are dead end for the flu as chances of it spreading from crows to other birds are minimal and that poultry birds seem to be unaffected so far. Nonetheless, we are continuing with intensive surveillance in the state. We have asked our officers in districts to keep surveilling poultry birds, take their samples and keep them testing,” she said.

Dr Vaghasiya said that no further deaths of birds have been reported since January 4. Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests of Junagadh wildlife circle which covers Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Porbandar, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts also said that no mass mortality was reported from wetlands in protected areas.

Meanwhile on the orders of the director of AH, zoos in the state shut their aviaries indefinitely from Saturday onward. An official release from the Rajkot Municipal Corporation on Friday said that the aviary in its Rajkot Zoological Park, popularly known as the Pradyuman Park will remain closed to visitors from Saturday onward but other sections of the park will remain open.

“We have issued that order as a precautionary measure to prevent the bird flu jumping to humans. In India, there hasn’t been reports of the bird flu jumping to humans but such cases have been reported from Hong Kong. Additionally, Kerala and Haryana are the only states of India so far where bird flu has been detected in poultry birds also,” the director of AH said.

As a precautionary measure, Shyamal Tikadar, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden of Gujarat had issued an order to keep bird sanctuaries of Nal Sarovar in Ahmedabad, Khijaydiya in Jamnagar and Porbandar in Porbandar district closed but withdrew that order later on. “We had issued the orders to keep these sanctuaries closed as a precautionary measure in view of the bird flu outbreak. However, we have withdrawn this order after instructions from the government. The government is of the view that panic should not be created. Therefore, these sanctuaries are open to visitors,” said Tikadar.

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