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10 faecal samples sent for avian influenza test

The animal husbandry and wildlife departments on Tuesday dispatched 10 faecal samples of wild birds, obtained from the Sultanpur National Park in Farrukhnagar, to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Lab in Jalandhar for testing
By Prayag Arora-Desai, Gurugram
UPDATED ON JAN 13, 2021 11:11 PM IST

The animal husbandry and wildlife departments on Tuesday dispatched 10 faecal samples of wild birds, obtained from the Sultanpur National Park in Farrukhnagar, to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Lab in Jalandhar for testing. This is in addition to the crow and egret carcass samples, retrieved from the Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park in Sector 56, sent on January 8 for testing avian influenza.

Lab results for both sets of samples expected within the next three days, officials confirmed.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, deputy commissioner Yash Garg spoke of the threat of avian influenza for the first time. “There are no indications of an outbreak, but we are prepared to launch a containment operation if a case of bird flu is detected. We are in touch with the animal husbandry department, which is monitoring the health of poultry, as well as the wildlife department. We have to remain on alert as we are hearing lots of news of avian influenza from different places,” Garg said.

Faecal samples from other popular birding destinations, including Basai and Najafgarh, may also be collected and sent if those from Sultanpur do not provide conclusive results. “If they are positive, then an outbreak may be assumed. If they are negative or inconclusive, we will keep looking. Field surveys are being conducted every day. The Civil Hospital in Farrukhnagar also dispatched a medical officer to inspect the Sultanpur area yesterday, to be sure,” said Rajesh Chahal, wildlife inspector.

Chahal did not specify the species of birds from which faecal samples were collected on Tuesday.

Despite the death of over 400,000 poultry birds in Panchkula district last month and proximity to three states — Rajasthan, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh — where avian influenza outbreaks have been confirmed, the situation in Gurugram remains business as usual, officials said, except for a few suspicious deaths at the Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park.

They pointed to the nature of the district’s poultry industry, which is relatively small and disorganised in comparison to other parts of the state, as a possible reason for a deferment of the outbreak.

Dr Ramphal Mann, a senior veterinarian with the animal husbandry department, said, “Gurugram, at one point, did have a flourishing broiler business, but that was more than a decade ago. As the area became more and more urbanised, large-scale commercial poultry enterprises started moving out to areas where land was cheaper. Presently, the demand for poultry and eggs is met by smaller backyard farmers, and is mostly consumed within the district. There are no organised mandis or even large bird markets, so very little intermingling of flocks happens. This could be one reason why the outbreak hasn’t found its way into bird farms yet.”

As per official data, Gurugram’s poultry industry is a fraction of that in districts of Panchkula, Karnal and Panipat. While Gurugram has an estimated poultry population of 148,532 birds, Karnal’s poultry farms have over 63 times that number, with an estimated 9,469,646 poultry birds. In Panchkula and Panipat, the estimated number of poultry is about 5,874,419 and 5,138,898 birds, respectively.

“Even if an outbreak is detected, the scale of response required is much smaller and can be easily managed,” said Dr Punita Gahlot, deputy director, animal husbandry department.

However, officials cautioned that Gurgram happens to be a prime location for migratory birds, which flock to the wetlands in Basai, Najafgarh and Sultanpur between October and March. “These wild birds are natural reservoirs of avian influenza. They may not fall seriously ill or die, but say a crow or a pigeon happens to catch the virus from a wild bird and then interacts with poultry in backyard units, it could set off bird deaths at chicken farms,” said Chahal, emphasising that there is no evidence of unusual poultry deaths, as of Wednesday.

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