NEW DELHI: Fears of bird flu spreading beyond the Delhi+ zoo grew on Thursday, with the government confirming that at least 10 birds were found dead in the city over the past 48 hours. These included five at the deer park in south Delhi’s Hauz Khas, which has been closed to visitors.
Two more birds also died at the zoo+ , which has been shut since Tuesday following confirmation of three H5N1, or avian flu, deaths. Samples of six-seven other birds that died earlier have been sent for testing.
Elsewhere, three crows were found dead in Sundar Nagar, less than 1km from the zoo, and at least one bird death was reported from Asola Bhatti sanctuary in Tughlaqabad, a known nesting site for migratory birds.
Delhi development minister Gopal Rai said three ducks were found dead at the same spot in the deer park on Wednesday and two more migratory birds died on Thursday, raising suspicion that the deaths could’ve been caused by bird flu. “We’ve asked for the park to be closed indefinitely and find out if more deaths are taking place,” he said.
Rai reiterated that there was no need for panic. “But people should be alert about birds dying in their localities. One should not venture near bird carcasses and immediately report any death to the helpline (011-23890318) being run by the state,” the minister said.
Sources in the animal husbandry department said the death of three crows in Sunder Nagar raises suspicions about the disease spreading beyond the zoo and sanctuaries and infecting indigenous birds, but any alert on this would be issued only after test results come in.
All leaves of animal husbandry staff have been cancelled in view of the emerging situation. The Delhi government is sending samples of all dead birds to a Jalandhar-based lab for confirmation of bird flu.
“We have constituted 10 rapid response teams besides forming a 23-member team headed by development commissioner Sandeep Kumar for better coordination between departments. Apart from this, 10 municipal corporation teams have been kept in reserve for any crisis. Civic bodies have been asked to maintain cleanliness at dump yards near chicken and poultry farms,” said a senior official.
He added chicken wholesale markets+ and poultry farms have been asked to report any dead birds and keep their area clean. Bird flu is rare among humans and, experts say, India has not reported a single such case as yet. But state health officials said there was no room for complacency.
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“We have sufficient stocks of Tamiflu tablet which is used for treating bird flu in humans. Advisories will be issued to public,” an official said. He said that at present there was no ban on eating cooked chicken or other poultry but those handling them in the abattoir or at shops should take precautions.
Globally, 856 cases of bird flu were reported in humans between 2003 and 2016. Of this, 452 died, reflecting the high mortality rate of the disease. Initial symptoms of bird flu in humans include high fever, sore throat, abdominal pain, chest pain and diarrhoea. But patients can develop severe symptoms such as respiratory distress and pneumonia, leading to death. Rai said many migratory birds come to Delhi from neighbouring states. “A portion of the Asola Bhatti wildlife sanctuary, for example, falls under Haryana+ . We are trying to involve officials from that state to intensify the identification of bird deaths,” he added.
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