Second Wave of Bird Flu Hits Himachal Pradesh, Over 100 Migratory Birds Found Dead

The first wave of avian influenza hit several Indian states in December 2020, when thousands of birds (mostly poultry and migratory birds) died within a couple of days. The outbreak was blamed on the migratory birds and authorities were put on high alert to monitor the situation which lasted a few weeks. But as the outbreak seemed to have eased, another wave of bird flu has reached the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.

According to wildlife officials, around a hundred migratory birds have died in Pong Dam Lake wildlife sanctuary in the last two weeks in Himachal Pradesh. Bird flu had first been reported in migratory birds at Pong in early January during an outbreak that killed over 5,000 birds in a month. It was contained in February, but on March 25, 12 bird carcasses were discovered in the sanctuary confirming a second wave of the outbreak.

Second Wave of Bird Flu Hits in Himachal Pradesh, Over 100 Migratory Birds Found Dead

Around a hundred migratory birds have died in Pong Dam Lake wildlife sanctuary in the last two weeks | Image: PTI

Pong Dam Lake is an international Ramsar site with an area that extends up to 220 square kilometres during the monsoon. The Pong wetland has become home to flocks of migratory birds each winter. A bird census in the sanctuary in February revealed the presence of over one lakh migratory waterfowls of 51 different species at the lake.

Chief Wildlife Warden Archana Sharma said,

The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal has confirmed the presence of H5N8 avian influenza among the samples of the dead birds. This strain is different from the previous outbreak when H5N1 had been detected among the migratory birds. But both these strains are highly pathogenic.

Highly pathogenic subtypes of avian influenza are highly contagious among birds and especially deadly for poultry. Earlier this year, when the outbreaks were reported across India, most of the states including neighbouring Haryana reported the H5N8 subtype of the virus, a strain that is not infectious to humans.

Sharma further said that over 100 birds have been found dead at Pong during this resurgence of bird flu, and like the previous outbreak, it has mostly affected the bar-headed geese. The dead birds also include nine graylag geese.

She said that outbreak has been confined to two neighbouring forests and bird mortalities are higher during days of adverse weather, as during that time geese tend to flock together for travelling, leading to more transmission. She added that the sanctuary has been closed for visitors, and the bird flu action plan has been implemented for surveillance, testing and scientific disposal of dead birds.

Reportedly, random incidents of deaths of other birds have also been observed from other parts of the state, including Theog and Manali. The samples of dead birds have been sent for testing by the animal husbandry department.

Via: The Hindu

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