As India continues the downward trend for fresh Covid-19 infections, another pressing matter appears to have left several states baffled as hundreds of birds have died due to bird flu across the country.

Bird flu, also called avian influenza, has come as a double whammy for Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat that are already fighting their biggest battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Centre has also issued a bird flu alert in several states in the wake of the sudden death of birds in large numbers, saying that the samples need to be collected from areas where bird flu cases are being reported.

The central government has also launched a drive to identify those with suspected flu symptoms in those areas.

Amid the scare, the state governments, as a protocol, have imposed prohibitory orders in parts where bird flu deaths are being recorded.

1) Kerala – Kerala Minister for Forest, Animal husbandry and Dairy development K Raju had stated that as many as 12,000 ducks had died and about 40,000 birds will be culled in the region where bird flu has been reported.

The district administrations of Alappuzha and Kottayam have begun the culling of poultry, a day after bird flu was detected in certain parts of the districts.

The state government said that bird flu is declared as a state-specific disaster in Kerala and a high alert has been issued after an outbreak of bird flu.

The authorities have also has imposed a ban on the sale and use of poultry meat and other related products in the regions where bird flu deaths have been detected.

2) Madhya Pradesh – State Animal Husbandry Minister Prem Singh Patel has said that an alert has been sounded to control the deaths of crows in MP after around 400 crows were found dead in 10 districts.

The testing of dead crow samples at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) has revealed the presence of the H5N8, the avian influenza causing virus, in some samples from Indore and Mandsaur.

The Mandsaur authorities in the state had ordered the shops selling chicken and eggs to remain closed for 15 days after bird flu was detected in crows.

3) Gujarat – Nearly 53 dead birds were found in the Batwa area of Manavdar tehsil in the Junagarh district on 3 January in Gujarat. A team of forest officials reached the spot and sent the carcasses for post-mortem.

Forest and wildlife officials in the state’s Junagarh district are on alert after carcasses of birds were found.

4) Himachal Pradesh – Over 1,900 migratory birds have died so far of avian flu in the Kangra district’s Pong Dam area in Himachal. Bird flu virus H5N1 has killed 2,403 migratory birds so far in this area, the state government said.

The Kangra District Magistrate issued order, completely prohibiting sale/purchase/export of any poultry/birds/fish of any breed/age and their related products (eggs, meat, chicken etc) in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora areas of Kangra.

Besides halting all tourist activities in the region, the next nine kilometres of the Pong Dam sanctuary has also been put under surveillance.

Wildlife officials have said that over 95% of birds found dead are bar-headed geese that migrate from Siberia and Mongolia.

5) Punjab – Amid a scare of avian flu among the migratory birds in Himachal, the Punjab government has also sounded an alert in the wetlands of Hari-ke-Pattan (Tarn Taran), Keshopur (Gurdaspur), Nangal, Roop Nagar and others.

6) Rajasthan – Bird flu has been spreading rapidly in various parts of Rajasthan. Initially, on 27 December, an alarm was sounded when 100 birds were found dead in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar district.

State Animal Husbandry Minister Lalchand Kataria also believes that it is a matter of concern as it impacts the birds and poultry industry.

As per reports, the cause behind the rapid spread of bird flu has been attributed to the H5N1 strain of the virus.

Over 50 birds were found dead in the Baran district of Rajasthan on Tuesday. According to the latest reports, besides the deaths of 100 crows in Jhalawar, 72 crows have died in Baran and 47 in Kota. The state government machinery is currently at a high state of alert.

7) Haryana – Since 5 December, hundreds of poultry birds have died at Haryana’s Raipur Rani. The authorities have confirmed that so far no avian flu symptoms have been found among the birds. However, the officials are awaiting the lab reports from Jalandhar.

In view of bird flu reported from some states of India, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath has directed the Health Department and Animal Husbandry Department to be fully alert in the state.

Karnataka has also put the government machinery on alert. However, no cases have been reported yet.

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