Migratory birds suspects in flu outbreak

Migratory birds suspects in flu outbreak

Bird watchers reject claim, say no winged visitors at Hesaraghatta Lake

Migratory birds suspects in flu outbreak

Veterinary experts have suspected migratory birds arriving at Hesaraghatta lake as the carriers of the avian influenza virus, three weeks after bird flu spread at the Central Poultry Development Organisation and Training Institute.

However, bird watchers have rubbished the claim stating that there had been no migratory birds at the lake this year.

“These birds arriving here perch on tree branches on the Institute campus and their droppings on the grass might have been consumed by the turkeys which have been completely culled now,” said a top official. He said there were no turkeys in the Institute and the chicken farm was under observation.  
However, bird watchers who visit Hesaraghatta regularly take exception to the claim. “There are absolutely no migratory birds this year barring one or two marsh harriers and pallid harriers. And these birds don’t prefer human habitats,” said Manjunath P, a bird expert. Clement Francis, another bird expert and wildlife photographer too said migratory birds had not been sighted at the lake for the past five weeks.

The outbreak of the flu has left the poultry industry in Karnataka in a state of shock since the State was considered safe from the disease. Poultry farming in the State is done in captivity leaving little scope for the outbreak. Sources in the Veterinary department said that the entire episode was kept a secret till some samples sent to the High Security Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (HSADDL) at Bhopal tested positive.

Officials at the department, on condition of anonymity, said that, the bird deaths began from the first week of October and the matter was not taken seriously till the deaths increased. “Finally an expert was informed on October 17 requesting him to visit the Centre as many birds were dying. But he could not make it as he was busy in New Delhi,” an official said.

With the situation going out of hand, samples of dead birds were sent to HSADDL, while another team of experts was called to collect samples from Namakkal High Security Laboratory near Salem in Tamil Nadu. According to sources, 3,418 birds have died of the flu so far and 784 birds have been culled and many more quarantined.

“It is just the turkeys which have tested positive to the viral disease, because they are more vulnerable to the disease, while the Institute has over 40,000 birds which includes ducks, chicken, Emus and Ostrich,” said the official. According to officials, Emus and Ostrich are more resistant to the disease compared to turkeys.

Over 120 men have been trained to cull the poultry birds affected by avian influenza (H5N1).  Health and Family Welfare secretary M Madan Gopal said that they will have to take care of these men involved in the culling of the poultry birds.

“These men will have to be quarantined for few days and ensure that they do not mingle with the general public.  Regular health check-ups will have to be conducted on them and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is normally administered to them,” he added.   Although the spread of infection from bird to human is very rare, precautionary measures will have to be taken.