Sixty-four crows have been found dead in the last few days in areas near the Pong wetland in Kangra, Himachal government officials said Thursday. The carcasses were found in the wildlife ranges of Dhameta and Nagrota, and a number of crows were also reportedly found dead in Bilaspur district, officials said, adding that samples of the birds have been collected for testing.
On Monday, samples of dead migratory birds found at the Pong Dam Lake had tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza, a type of bird flu caused by the H5N1 strain of Influenza A virus.
The death toll of migratory birds at the Pong lake wildlife sanctuary has reached 3,409, including 381 birds found dead on Thursday, said Chief Wildlife Warden Archana Sharma.
Animal husbandry officials are trying to contain the virus from spreading to domesticated birds, or further to humans, and have been randomly testing poultry samples from areas around the Pong lake. On Wednesday, around 500 chicken carcasses were found dumped by the side of the Chandigarh-Shimla highway at Chakki Mor in Solan district. Officials said test reports of poultry samples from both the areas are still awaited.
A team of experts from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, is on a visit to the Pong wetland to assess the situation and give suggestions for control and containment of the outbreak, said Sharma. Ten rapid response teams are working in nine beats of the sanctuary area for the collection and safe disposal of dead birds as per protocol, and 55 people have been deployed for daily surveillance operations, she said. A control room has also been set up at Nagrota Surian to receive and disseminate outbreak-related information.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is scheduled to head to Dharamshala on Friday to hold a review meeting on the outbreak with wildlife, police, medical, and animal husbandry officials of Kangra. He informed the press that Tamiflu capsules and other flu-related provisions have been adequately provided to the frontline field staff engaged in handling and disposal of birds. While all human and livestock activity, including tourism, has been banned in and around the lake sanctuary, tourists are welcome to visit any other part of the state and enjoy the snow season, he said.
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