Poultry farms, lakes, wetlands in Punjab under surveillance over bird flu threat

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A day after samples of dead migratory birds from Himachal Pradesh tested positive for avian influenza H5N1, the Punjab animal husbandry department directed its district-level officials to start surveillance of commercial poultry farms and lakes/wetlands to check unusual sickness and fatality among birds and collect samples for testing.

In a separate order, the Northern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL), Jalandhar issued a letter for five states and three UTs — Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and UTs of Ladakh, J&K, Chandigarh — stating precautions and measures to be taken to prevent ingress and spread of avian influenza.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Punjab Animal Husbandry director H S Kahlon said orders had been issued to all districts in Punjab to start surveillance of commercial poultry farms and collect samples if any bird fatality was reported.

All lakes and wetlands in the state have also been put under surveillance for fatality/unusual sickness among migratory birds.

“District-level officials in Punjab have been alerted and directed to start surveillance of commercial private poultry farms. Wildlife wing will be checking all water bodies including lakes, wetlands etc. to see if there is any fatality among migratory birds. If a bird is found dead, sample will be collected and sent for testing at RDDL Jalandhar. Final confirmation will be done after testing from National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NISHAD) in Bhopal. For Punjab, Haryana, HP, Delhi and Rajasthan and three UTs Ladakh, J&K and Chandigarh, samples will first be tested at RDDL Jalandhar,” said Kahlon.

Kahlon said that the nature of H5N1 is such that it cannot survive beyond 70 degree Celsius: “We will be issuing a separate advisory for consumption of poultry meat and other products such as eggs but this virus gets killed if poultry chicken is cooked at 70 degree Celsius or more. In India, we adopt cooking methods such as boiling, frying, roasting etc and temperature crosses 70 degree Celsius, so it is safe to consume chicken if it is properly cooked. But one should avoid eating raw meat/chicken,” said Kahlon.

Meanwhile, a letter issued by the RDDL Jalandhar (copy with The Indian Express) and sent to directors of animal husbandry department of five northern states and three UTs stated that: “Avian influenza is a highly contagious, transboundary disease, having zoonotic potential and causing huge losses in term of mortality and trade of poultry and poultry products…”

“…As there is high risk of occurrence of avian influenza during winter season and there are reports of wild, migratory and domesticated poultry, therefore there is an immediate need that all states should be in preparedness and keep a close watch on any unusual sickness or mortality in birds (poultry as well as wild/migratory birds)…,’ reads the letter.

The letter further states: “The surveillance is needed to be carried out in wet markets at the bordering areas, market chain on poultry supply areas with high duck population, water bodies, nesting places of wild birds, zoological parks and bird sanctuaries as stipulated in surveillance plan. The veterinary officers should be sensitized to send samples on regular basis…”

RDDL Jalandhar has further said that “migratory birds play an important role in the transmission of avian influenza virus resulting in low as well as highly pathogenic avian influenza. Hence, there is a need to strengthen the surveillance in areas where migratory birds are visiting. Special emphasis should be laid on sero-surveillance in poultry in such areas…”

The letter further states that RDDL Jalandhar has trained veterinary officers as master trainers regarding prevention, control and containment of avian influenza, so states have been directed arrange training for capacity building of vets and para-vets.

The letter also said: “Incidence of any unusual sickness/mortality in birds should be immediately reported to all concerned as per action plan along with action taken for prevention and control of the disease…It should be emphasized on the poultry owner, public involved in poultry business, wildlife staff to report such unusual sickness/mortality in birds to the nearest veterinary authority for taking necessary action as mentioned in the action plan…”

The letter sums up that “biosecurity needs to be strengthened in all poultry establishments, zoological parks, bird sanctuaries and poultry markets…”



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