The Union environment ministry has written to state chief secretaries and chief wildlife wardens asking them to constitute monitoring committees for avian influenza as an action plan was being prepared for monitoring migratory birds across the country.
A large number of deaths, including that of migratory birds, have been reported from states like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. “Samples have been tested at the ICAR-National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, and have been found to be positive for H5Nl Avian Influenza Virus,” the letter said.
It added considering the serious situation and the possibility of spread of the disease to humans and other domesticated animals, the states and Union territories are requested to take all steps for containing its spread. “…take up surveillance and monitoring of birds, for any signs of disease, and take appropriate measures for controlling it, on priority.”
Humans can be infected with avian influenza, or bird flu, primarily through direct contact and may cause disease ranging from mild fever and cough, early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia, sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even death, according to the World Health Organisation.
The Centre has advised the states to collect samples of migratory, dead birds with utmost caution and under scientific supervision. The surveillance should not be restricted to the protected areas alone and should be extended to all wetlands and habitats that host migratory birds and areas with any possibility of interaction of migratory and poultry birds, the advisory said.
“All deaths of migratory birds—their number and cause are to be reported to the environment ministry immediately,” the letter said.
“Intensive surveillance should be undertaken to look for any unreasonable bird behaviour, or death among wild birds as well as migratory birds. Vigilance should be stepped up in the zoos also.”
The states have been asked to send weekly reports to the ministry with details from important bird sites, number and species of birds that arrived, approximate period of arrival and stay, any changes in migratory pattern vis a vis number, arrival sites, etc as compared to previous years.