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As per notification issued at Jammu (SRO 92) the Jammu & Kashmir Government has lifted the ban on the import of broiler birds, day old chicks and eggs into the state. Considering that the spread of bird flu has been gradually progressing towards northern India, its strange to see the ban being revoked. J&K and Kashmir particularly would provide the best climatic conditions for survival and transmission of the influenza virus considering the summer would have been helpful in eradicating the dreaded virus in rest of the country, this decision of J&K govt. seems premature and open to criticism.

    The death of a large number of chickens in poultry farms in Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh in the past few days has prompted authorities to conduct tests to ascertain whether they had died due to bird flu.
    Suraj Damor, the district magistrate of Burhanpur, said 80 birds had died in poultry farms at Ichhapur village.
    Other reports, however, said some 400 chickens had died in Burhanpur over the last three days. Burhanpur is close to Gujarat and Maharashtra, the two states where cases of bird flu have been confirmed.
    "Samples have been sent to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory of Bhopal to check whether the hens died due to bird flu," Damor told reporters. She said two teams of health experts had been sent to Ichhapur to take stock of the situation. The supply of poultry from Burhanpur to other districts had been stopped, she said. A senior official of the Bhopal laboratory said the samples from Burhanpur had been received. "It will take us around a week to find the cause of the death of the birds," the official said.
    He said the laboratory had also received around 180 fresh samples from Pune city of Maharashtra.
    Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh's Veterinary Commissioner Rajesh Rajora said the state had decided to stop all poultry supplies from Gujarat and Maharashtra. The four districts of Madhya Pradesh that have borders with Gujarat and Maharashtra are Burhanpur, Khandwa, Jhabua and Barwani. Rajora said the state government was ready to deal with any situation and teams of cullers and vaccinators had been formed in all districts of Madhya Pradesh. India's first case of bird flu was reported from Nandurbar district of Maharashtra on February 18. More cases were confirmed from Jalgaon district in the same state on Tuesday.
    Over 400,000 birds have been culled in Maharashtra and Gujarat to prevent the spread of the disease.



In another significant move the Govt. of J&K has invoked the 'Essential Service Maintainance Ordinanace' for the vets and para vets of the state, this has been done to infuse the utmost preparedness for the impending 'bird flu threat'. As per the ordinance  vets an para-vets from the state "shall not abandon their employment or absent themselves from the duty/work or depart from the area/areas where they are posted, failing which they shall be guilty of having committed the offences under section 5 of the ordinance for which they shall be prosecuted before the court upon a complaint by the concerned District Chief Animal Husbandry Officer and shall be liable to punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and shall be liable to fine under section 7 of the ordinance".


    The Jammu and Kashmir Government has said the ban on entry of poultry and poultry products into the State will continue till the bird flu situation improves across the country. The state administration said the ban, imposed on February 19 in the wake of outbreak of the deadly avian influenza in Maharashtra and Gujarat, would be lifted once it was fully satisfied that the bird flu situation improved across the country.

    At a high-level meeting here on Saturday evening, Animal and Sheep Husbandry Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din said as long as the threat of the deadly H5N1 virus persisted in the country, the ban on entry of poultry and poultry products would continue. The Minister also took stock of the situation and arrangements made to meet the challenges thrown by the outbreak of the deadly disease in some parts of the country.

    He stressed the need for uninterrupted surveillance in all the regions and urged the officials not to show any slackness in their vigilance over poultry and migratory bird population in the state. Animal and Sheep Husbandry Commissioner-cum-Secretary Dr Muhammad Deen said that 1257 samples collected in Kashmir had been sent to the High Security Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories, Bhopal. However, he said none of the samples had tested positive for the deadly bird flu disease. Dr Deen expressed satisfaction over the status reports on the health of poultry population in the Valley. He said instructions had been given to field agencies that strict vigil be maintained on the poultry population in villages along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border and the field teams will regularly collect samples for testing. A close watch was being maintained on poultry population in the villages lying in close proximity to the wetlands as these were more exposed to the risk of contracting the infection from migratory birds, he added. 



    With people in Punjab not willing to risk eating chicken or eggs after a bird flu outbreak in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, poultry businesses in the state are rotting just like the millions of eggs lying with the traders. Prices have almost halved from Rs 140 to Rs 75 for 100 per eggs after the avian influenza scare, but without any takers, the eggs are rotting in the farms, traders heree complained.
    What has compounded their problems is the ban imposed by Jammu and Kashmir on entry of chicken or eggs from the state. Jalandhar is known as largest market of eggs in punjab, which also meet the demands of neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, which has already imposed ban on intake of chicken and eggs from Punjab, said Jaswant Singh Setia of Punjab Egg Dealers' Association." Although there was no confirmed case of bird flu in the northern part of the country, the scare of the deadly disease has taken its toll... Sales have witnessed a steep decline in the last fortnight," he said.
    Despite such a heavy loss to the poultry farms, the state government has not provided any relief to the industry, said Jasbeer Singh, owner of a poultry farm in the city.
    He demanded immediate compensation on the pattern of relief given in the event of a natural calamity.
    "Jammu and Kashmir was the major taker of Punjab's eggs, with a daily consumption of 10 lakh eggs, but after the ban enforced by the neighbouring state, egg dealers in punjab are facing heavy losses," he said. Consumption in Punjab itself has dropped by almost 80 per cent.



    On February 18, 2006, the Government of India announced the first official report of the presence of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in India.  According to the report, the virus was found in domestic poultry in Navapur, a city located in the Nandurbar district in the west Indian state of Maharashtra (near the borders with the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh).  Subsequently, the H5N1 virus was found in chickens in Uchchhal, Gujarat, just a few miles from Navapur across the state border.  Health authorities continue to monitor poultry workers and others in this area, but there have been no confirmed cases of contraction of the H5N1 virus by humans.
    American citizens are advised to avoid those areas identified by the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat as being affected by avian influenza, and to monitor news reports regarding other possible avian influenza outbreaks in India.  We also wish to advise American citizens that, in any area which experiences an outbreak of avian influenza among birds or humans, local authorities have the power to quarantine symptomatic individuals in government hospitals, many of which may not provide adequate isolation facilities.
    The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor any other possible outbreaks of avian influenza in India and Bhutan among domestic and wild bird populations, and also will continue to monitor the possible spread of the virus from infected poultry to humans. 



    Birdflu among chickens has been confirmed in Surat district of Gujarat, official sources said on Saturday.
    "The avian flu has been detected among some chickens from one poultry farm in Utchal taluka. It was confirmed by the Union government on two samples out of thirteen that we had sent from the region...," Gujarat Secretary for Breeding and Protection D K Rao said. The official said that the flu was detected in samples from Timol poultry farm in Utchal, close to avian flu affected Navapur taluka in Nadurbar district of Maharashtra. Various preventive measures have already been taken to prevent spread of the disease among more birds or any human, he added.

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    Already rattled by news about spread of bird flu virus in some parts of Maharastra, Kashmiris are faced with a high alert from the local Wildlife department as migratory birds from the plains of the country start arriving in Srinagar on journey back to their summer homes.
    Mohammad Shafi Bacha, the local Wildlife Warden does not want to sound alarmist, but what he says is quite serious. "The beginning of Spring is really the high risk period for us to be on the maximum alert. You see migratory birds from the plains and also from wetlands in Punjab, Haryana, Orissa, Maharashtra and Gujarat start arriving in Srinagar this time on their return journey to summer homes in China, Western Europe and Russain Siberia.These birds stay for short periods, but if any one of them is a carrier of the H5N1 virus it is likely that the virus can get carried to the stocks of local ducks and geese and thence to the local poultry as the domestic ducks and geese share the wetland environment of the migratory birds in places where human habitations exist in close proximity of the natural reserves of the migratory birds."
    Bacha also said three species of the migratory birds that come to Kashmir every winter are believed to have acted as potential carriers of the virus in those parts of the world where the migratory birds had been responsible for the arrival of the bird flu virus.
    "These three species are the Brown Headed Gull, the Cormorant and the Bar-Headed Geese. Of these three, the Cormorant comes to Srinagar for a short period in the spring and we call it bird of the passage. But, the Bar-Headed Geese stay for breeding in the Ladakh region for a few months and that puts the area on high risk," he said. The wildlife warden also said in 2005 over 8 lakh migratory birds came to Kashmir from Western Europe, China and the Russian Siberia.
    As the news about the spread of the dreaded bird flu virus in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat starts reaching the nook and corner of Kashmir more and more locals are restraining themselves from using poultry and poultry products. Interestingly, the official advisories that there is no reason for alarm are simply falling on deaf ears. The state government has already banned the entry of poultry and poultry products into the state, which reach Srinagar mostly from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
    M.K. Turki, the joint director of the local animal health department says teams of his department's experts who have been provided with the lastest equipments and sample collection kits are visiting different parts of the state. "There is no reason whatsoever for panic. We have no report of any bird deaths that could be pinned to the dreaded H5N1 virus so far," Turki said in Srinagar.


    The authorities have imposed a ban on the entry of poultry in Jammu and Kashmir from the neighbouring states to prevent spread of bird flu.Reports said special barriers had been set up at Lakhanpur, which is the entry point into the state from Punjab, to check the entry of poultry birds. Poultry products were supplied here from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.Punjab and Haryana are major suppliers of poultry to Jammu and Kashmir. These states are also supplying poultry to the armed forces and paramilitary forces deployed here. Truckloads of poultry enter Jammu and Kashmir from the neighbouring states every day. The forest department is also keeping an eye on the wetlands where migratory birds from Siberia flock during this season.
    Mr.R.L.Bharti, Chief Wildlife Warden, said so far there was no untoward report from any wetland. He said the migratory birds were known to be carriers of the killer flu.He said the field staff had been asked to make residents around the wetlands aware about the bird flu and not allow their poultry birds to mix with the migratory birds. Mr Bharti said the reports of death of 600 migratory birds at the Pangong lake in Ladakh were factually incorrect.


    In a significant move the government of Jammu & Kashmir have issued an SRO banning the entry of poultry/poultry products and pigs/piggery products into the state to prevent the entry of bird flu. In addition as per another  SRO issued simultaneously Avian Influenza has been listed as a scheduled disease and made notifiable.



In the first instance of the deadly avian flu virus in India, the Maharashtra government on Saturday said chicken have died of the disease in the Nandurbar and Dhule districts, which have a large number of poultry farms, even as the state authorities have rushed immediate medical help to the affected areas.The high security animal disease laboratory in Bhopal, where poultry samples were sent has confirmed that seven samples had strains of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus, official sources said in Mumbai. State Animal Husbandry Minister Anees Ahmed has assured that all preliminary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infections to other areas and the entire area has been isolated, and the infected birds have been kept separately. The minister also cautioned people in Dhule and Nandurbar districts from consuming poultry products and emergency medical teams and medicines were rushed to the affected areas.

  There was however no cases of the human infection. Medicines, airlifted from Delhi, have reached Aurangabad and are being taken to Nandurbar by road, the minister, who is currently in Nagpur said. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters that the government was taking all measures on a war footing to combat the disease and that there was no cause for panic. "This was the first time that India has been affected by the bird flu virus, but we are confident of tackling the situation." Over 50,000 birds have died in the area, having 52 poultry farms, during the past two weeks but senior officials in the animal husbandry department said the cause of death was initially thought to be "ranikhet" and not bird flu. Poultry birds within a three kilometer radius of Nandurba from where samples were sent to Bhopal will be culled using carbon monoxide and through birdfeed mixed with medicines, the minister said adding neighbouring Gujarat has been alerted as large number of poultry from Maharashtra is supplied to that state, especially Surat. The Maharashtra government has alerted authorities in neighbouring Gujarat who have set up a 24-hour monitoring cell at Surat. Eleven veterinary teams have been rushed to Surat, D K Rao, secretary, animal husbandry said at Ahmedabad adding the state has nine poultry farms with about 18,000 birds from where about 100 chicken deaths were reported during the past 10 to 12 days. However, he said this rate of poultry deaths was normal. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Centre activated its action plan to prevent the spread of bird flu and officials said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss would speak with Maharashtra authorities on the issue. "The health ministry is seized of the entire development and appropriate action is mooted at appropriate level," sources said adding, as a precautionary measure ministry officials were already deputed to all states.


    But bird Flu spread ruled out. (UNITED NEWS OF INDIA)

    About 600 carcasses of migratory birds, blamed for the spread of bird flu in several countries across the  globe, were found near the Pangong Lake in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir some weeks ago, sources said Sunday. They said the dead birds were found near the Lake, which lies in the northeast of Leh, in December last year. The sources said the birds could have possibly died of H5N1 avian influenza (commonly known as bird flu). However, the sources ruled out spread of the bird flu or any disease, as there is no population around the famous blue brackish Lake, half of which runs to the other side of the India-China border. The black-necked Siberian crane could be found around the Mahe marshes which are the only breeding ground for the migratory birds in the Lake.
    Health authorities across the globe are concerned over the spread of H5N1 avian influenza which has swept through flocks across Asia and into Europe, killing or forcing the culling of 200 million birds. H5N1 avian flu was first reported in people in Hong Kong in 1997, when it infected 18 people and killed six. It re-emerged in 2003 and has infected at least 161 people and killed about half of them, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
    The sources said one death of bird was reported from Hokarsar bird sanctuary near here. The carcass has been sent to the High Security Laboratory at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh which has the facility for diagnosis  of bird flu. Talking to UNI, Deputy Director of the state Animal Husbandry Department, Dr Farooq Ahmed Kaloo, said there have been no reports of the H5N1 virus in poultry or migratory birds in Jammu and Kashmir. He said Jammu and Kashmir has the unique protection cover from any such disease carried by migratory birds. “The state has natural filtration in the form of mighty Himalayas against diseases which are carried by migratory birds. Any vector (affected bird) with compromised immunity gets killed on the    way,” Dr Kaloo added. Dr Kaloo said Ladakh, located at a very high altitude, has rarified form of air. “The oxygen tension in the region is less and the atmospheric pressure is very low as a result the carriers (migratory birds) get killed within the area itself,” he added. However, Dr Kaloo said the department was fully prepared for any eventuality. “We are prepared to firmly deal with any situation. We are ready to take the disease, if detected, head on. We have taken all preventive measures. There is absolutely no need for panic,” he added.
    Dr Kaloo said there are about 1400 poultry farms in the private sector in Kashmir alone. “We have the farm owners complete information about the avian influenza and asked them to prevent entry of migratory and wild birds in their farms for nesting,”’ he added. He said the staff has been trained in collecting dead birds   and the department has vigorously launched mass awareness programmes. The disease investigating officers have been deployed at all district levels, he said, adding the thrust was on areas frequented by migratory birds in Varmul, Srinagar, Badgam and Pulwama.
    “We have stepped up surveillance on all wet zones in the Kashmir valley,” the Deputy Director said. Dr Kaloo said the department has procured about 300 disposable “Gamma Radiated Protective Suits” for direct handlers. Besides the people, through sustained media campaign, have been asked not to consume migratory or hunted birds. The H5N1 virus remains primarily a disease of birds, but one of the greatest fears of experts is that the H5N1 virus will mutate to become easily passed between humans, triggering a pandemic in which millions could die. However, the current H5N1 strain of bird flu has not mutated. Human victims contract the virus through close contact with infected birds.

    The Jammu and Kashmir government has sounded the bird flu alert in the entire state and cautioned people not to buy and accept birds. "Though not confirmed in India and also in Jammu and Kashmir, the World  Health Organisation has intimated us to be cautious,"' the state Department of Wildlife Protection said in Srinagar Thursday. Migratory birds are believed to be the carriers of Bird flu, it said adding, the Wildlife Department is working to ascertain the facts.
    "However, all the people, particularly those living in close proximity to water bodies, are cautioned to avoid leaving their ducks in wetlands and use the water that may be polluted with diseased or dead infected wild birds," the department added.
    The Wildlife Department urged the general public to ensure that birds are not killed in wetlands, water bodies or anywhere in inundated paddy fields, local village ponds or in water logged areas. "All are requested not to indulge in illegal trade of any nature of such birds. It is not only illegal, but may also carry bird flu and   prove a killing ghost within two to three days of infection," it added. "Don't kill, buy and accept birds (shikar and pachen)," the department said. This information has been verified by paralegal studies.

  • OCTOBER 27, 2005: J&K WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT GEARS UP AGAINST AVIAN FLU. (PRESS TRUST OF INDIA)  Gearing up against avian flu, the J&K Wildlife Department has adopted a multi-pronged strategy through awareness drives, spraying and inoculation in the wetlands dotting the Indo-Pak border  where migratory birds flock during the winters.
    ‘‘In view of a threat of bird flu being carried into Jammu and Kashmir by the thousands of migratory birds, we have launched a multi-pronged strategy in the chain of wetlands along the Indo-Pak border against any possible outbreak of bird flu,’’ Wildlife Warden R Kitchloo said today. Kitchloo, who led an expert team of the department on a public awareness campaign in the wetland reserves along the border, said so far, there are no reports of the disease from anywhere in the state.
    More than 60,000 migratory birds from China, Malaysia and Siberia and other countries flock to the border wetlands at Garana, Nanga, Sangral, Kokrian and Pargwal in Jammu district every winter, he said.

  • OCTOBER 22, 2005: MIGRATORY BIRDS CAN BE FLU CARRIERS FOR KASHMIR. ( IANS)         Arrival of hundreds of thousands of migratory birds this winter could spell a disaster for Jammu and Kashmir since they could be avian flu carriers, many experts warn. Every year thousands of migratory birds start arriving in Kashmir from Siberia, China and Eastern Europe by the middle of September. The good news is that none of the birds have tested positive for the bird flu virus, but a question mark hangs over the level of expertise that exists for such testing.
    Kashmir's regional wildlife warden Muhammad Shafi Bacha said: "Recently two of our officers have been trained in Jalandhar for testing and sampling of migratory birds for the virus. "So far, only three species of migratory birds have been proven as carriers of the fatal Asian bird flu virus. These are the bar-headed    goose, the brown-headed gull and the cormorant. Of these, the bar-headed geese do not visit the valley, but they do visit the Gharana wetland reserve in the Jammu region," Bacha told IANS. "The brown-headed gulls and cormorants visit us during the winter, but their numbers are very small. They are essentially  passage migrants, meaning they stay here for short periods. "The fact that migratory birds have been found to carry the bird flu virus in Turkey and Romania is serious news for us. We will have to very closely monitor the birds and their life pattern, disease occurrence and mortality this year. But, for the present, we have no reason to panic," Bacha asserted.
    Veterinary experts however have a different opinion. "If one species of migratory birds has been confirmed as a carrier of the Asian bird flu virus, then it is quite possible the strain can infect other species of migratory birds like mallards, teals, shovellers, pochards and others that come to Kashmir in their  thousands," said Dr. B.A. War, a senior veterinarian. The real problem is that the droppings and secretions from the migratory birds can infect local poultry, causing an epidemic for which Jammu and Kashmir might have no answer. "These migratory birds shed droppings and secretions even during their flight. Some of them might be healthy enough to fly long distances and still carry the virus with them. We have thousands of domestic ducks and swans that freely mix with the migratory birds in our water bodies. "There are no borders either in the sky or inside the water bodies. I think somebody needs to blow the whistle right now before it is too late", War warned.
    The Food and Agriculture Organisation has confirmed the presence of the Asian bird flu virus in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and China. War added that the World Organisation for Animal Health   had confirmed the deaths of water birds due to the Asian bird flu virus in Siberia and Kazakhstan. "It is possible that the Siberian migratory birds that come to Kashmir may carry the Asian bird flu virus. We need to be on high alert," he felt.
    Although experts say properly cooked birds cannot spread the virus to humans, they also say that handling feathers, meat, eggs or egg products of the infected birds can transmit the virus to human beings. Agricultural implements, feed given to poultry and even movements in open fields where infected migratory birds have left droppings and secretions are also danger zones.
    Ironically, Kashmir has historically looked forward to the arrival of migratory birds in winter. Now that some of them could be carriers of the Asian bird flu virus, these birds have suddenly become villains. "Whether you call them victims or villains, the hard fact is that we need to watch out against the migratory birds now," War said.

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