India grapples with bird flu outbreak as it battles COVID-19

Several Indian states have stepped up efforts to contain the spread of avian influenza, or bird flu, after the disease was confirmed in samples of dead birds, officials said Wednesday.

The outbreak comes as India battles the COVID-19 pandemic in which 150,114 people have died and more than 10 million have been infected, putting its confirmed caseload behind only the United States.

Thousands of birds – migratory, crows and poultry – have died in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states over the past 10 days.

Two strains of bird flu – H5N1 and H5N8 – had been confirmed in these regions, according to a federal government release.

Bird flu affects mainly poultry and wild birds, but can infect humans who have close contact with sick birds.

In southern Kerala state officials said they had begun a culling process in Kottayam and Allaphuza districts in a 1-kilometre radius of where thousands of ducks had died.

At least 25,000 birds, mostly ducks, had been killed and their carcasses disposed according to regulations. The process of culling another 20,000 was on, state Animal Husbandry Department official KM Dilip said.

Four epicentres of the disease had been identified and sale of poultry and eggs had been restricted in these areas.

In the northern hill state of Himachal Pradesh 2,500 migratory birds, mostly bar-headed geese, were found dead at the Pong Lake, an annual stop for migratory birds from central Asia.

In Madhya Pradesh in central India door-to-door medical check-ups were being held in three districts where hundreds of crows were found dead, NDTV news channel reported.

In Rajasthan more than 700 crows had died and special teams were monitoring the situation.

Bird deaths had also been reported from Haryana state and test results were awaited.

Source: GNA

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