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Bird flu scare

As Kashmir was already grappling with COVID-19, a major snowfall rattled it further and now threats of a looming avian influenza or bird flu are making people anxious. It all started when thousands of migratory birds, most of them bar-headed geese, died mysteriously in Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam Lake recently. Samples taken confirmed the birds had died of avian influenza or bird flu also called H5N1 virus. Following it, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change issued a high alert stating that it was a matter of “serious concern”. The Ministry asked all Chief Secretaries to take “urgent measures” considering the seriousness of the situation and the possibility of spread of the disease to humans and other domesticated birds. States and UTs were asked to take up surveillance and monitoring of birds for any signs of the disease, report the same to the Ministry, and take appropriate measures for controlling it on priority. In Kashmir, a similar advisory was issued by Wildlife Conservation Fund (WCF), which works in tandem with the J&K wildlife department. Meanwhile more cases of bird flu are being reported from several states almost every other day. The threat of Bird Flu is aggravating day by day across India. The latest to detect the cases of the avian influenza is Maharashtra, where the National Laboratory has confirmed that 800 chicken in Murumba village died due to bird flu. So far the disease has been  detected in Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. Jammu and Kashmir is also on alert. No bird deaths have been reported from Hokersar wetland — Kashmir’s largest and the most prominent wetland — even as a sustained surveillance and monitoring campaign for bird flu has been launched in the valley, officials said on Monday. A team of experts from the Institute of Animal Health and Biological Products (IAH&BP), Zakura, Animal Husbandry Department, Kashmir, in coordination with the Wildlife Protection Department, Kashmir, visited the wetland Monday to set in motion sustained surveillance and monitoring for bird flu (Avian Influenza) here, an official spokesman said. A wildlife veterinarian, accompanying the team, informed that no deaths in birds were reported from the Hokersar wetland — the largest and most prominent of wetlands in Kashmir. The team made an awareness presentation to the staff posted at Hokersar and advised them to remain vigilant for immediate reporting of any signs/symptoms of avian influenza or deaths in the wild birds that have migrated to Kashmir valley presently. While the preparation from the government seems adequate, people are still anxious whether consumption of poultry and poultry products is safe. This has led to a rapid decline in the demand for such products. We hope that Kashmir remains safe from the infection since we already have had enough to deal with in the last two years.