Sixteen districts in Maharashtra have reported cases of bird deaths so far, with Yavatmal, Amravati and Bhandara reporting fresh cases on Tuesday. With this, 1,839 bird deaths have been reported since Friday.
Officials also reported 200 poultry bird deaths in Bhandara district on Tuesday. But until late night, this number had neither been included in the official toll of dead birds nor had Bhandara been included in the list of districts where such deaths have been recorded.
Following Union government guidelines, culling of nearly 5,500 poultry birds was ordered in Murumba village in Parbhani district. However, the administration could not begin the culling process on Thursday, following opposition from poultry farm owners.
“A section of poultry farmers is opposed to the idea of culling birds and thus, the process could not begin on Tuesday. I have directed the district collector to begin the procedure of compensating these farmers simultaneously,” said Anoop Kumar, Principal Secretary (Animal Husbandry).
Murumba has been declared a prohibited area and a team has started medically examining its residents.
The Maharashtra government had faced similar opposition from poultry farm owners in Nandurbar district during the 2006 bird flu outbreak in the state.
The only district where culling commenced on Tuesday was Latur, where 200 poultry birds were culled. A total of 10,000 poultry birds are to be culled in the district.
The culling will be done within a one-km radius of the poultry farm where it is confirmed that birds have died due to Avian Influenza or bird flu. As per Union government guidelines, a 10-km surveillance zone will also be created. Within the surveillance zone, selling and purchase of birds will not be allowed.
On Tuesday, 218 birds were found dead in the state. Of this, 200 poultry birds died in Yavatmal, 11 in Amravati and three in Akola. Four crows were also found dead in Akola. Their samples have been sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal and Disease Investigation Section, Aundh in Pune, for testing. It can take 48 to 72 hours to receive the results of the tests.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) began an awareness drive at various poultry shops in Mumbai. The civic officials appealed to the people to inform them about any unusual bird deaths. It shared a helpline number (1916) with people for the purpose.
Further, the BMC has made it mandatory for poultry shopowners and workers employed by them to wear masks and gloves.
A day after samples of two crows from Mumbai tested positive for H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza, BMC received 50 calls from people alerting it about bird deaths. In seven days since January 5, the BMC has received 32 such calls. In these seven days, 72 birds were found dead across the city, including the 11 crows found dead in Chembur on Sunday. However, not all the bird deaths are due to bird flu, said BMC officials.
The civic body has said that the dead birds need to be disposed only by burying them in a pit.
To monitor the situation, the state animal husbandry department has set up a control room in Pune and requested the people to report any bird deaths on toll free number 18002330418.
The 16 districts that are now affected by bird flu are Yavtmal, Akola, Amravati, Mumbai, Thane, Ratnagiri, Beed, Parbhani, Latur, Gondia, Chandrapur, Nagpur, Nashik, Nanded, Satara and Ahmednagar.
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