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Days after dead owl tested positive for bird flu, six samples sent from Delhi zoo return negative for avian infection

New Delhi: Six samples collected from Delhi zoo earlier this week tested negative for bird flu, officials said on Friday, days after a brown fish owl that was found dead in its enclosure, was diagnosed with a strain of the infection
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 12:17 AM IST

New Delhi: Six samples collected from Delhi zoo earlier this week tested negative for bird flu, officials said on Friday, days after a brown fish owl that was found dead in its enclosure, was diagnosed with a strain of the infection.

Ramesh Pandey, director, National Zoological Park in Delhi said that while the zoo has not reported any fresh case of the flu, safety protocols have not been relaxed.

“All six samples, including those of the four birds whose enclosures were close to the owl that died of the virus, returned negative on Thursday. However, safety, surveillance and sanitation work will continue, and all protocols and guidelines issued by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) of the Union ministry of environment forests and climate change and the animal husbandry department of the Delhi government, are being followed strictly,” Pandey said.

On January 15, samples from a brown fish owl found dead in its enclosure at the zoo, tested positive for H5N8 avian influenza. After this, cloacal, tracheal, and ocular swabs from birds in the zoo were sent to the Delhi government’s animal husbandry unit for serological examination. Samples from water bodies inside the zoo premises frequented by wild and migratory birds, along with bird droppings, were sent to be examined.

Senior officials from the Union environment ministry said they were keeping a close watch to ensure more bird flu cases are not reported from the Delhi zoo or any other part of the Capital.

“Zoo staff has been given special drapers and personal protective equipment (PPE). They are following our advisory, and are in constant touch with the ministry of animal husbandry. The zoo is closed, so there is no fear of transmission to people,” said Soumitra Dasgupta, the environment ministry’s additional director-general.

In a list of guidelines issued by the ministry, zoo authorities have been directed to use a disinfectant spray of lime juice, Virkon-S and sodium hypochlorite, and foot bath of potassium permanganate, at regular intervals.

“Chicken feed to raptors and entry of vehicles inside the zoo had already been stopped... Movement of staff and workers in the zoo is being restricted and regulated, keeping in view the animal influenza threats,” ministry guidelines read.

Officials said managing the infection this time has been easier because unlike the 2016 outbreak, the zoo is already closed for the general public due to the threat of Covid-19, officials said.

“Monitoring is being done and e-Bird mobile application, which is popularly used by bird watchers across the world, is being used to keep a record of monitoring tracks,” Pandey said

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