The Rajasthan wildlife department and animal husbandry department are on alert after an outbreak of avian influenza in Jhalawar and deaths of hundreds of birds in other parts of the state.
Since December 25, hundreds of crows, peacocks and hens have died in Jhalawar, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Kota, and Baran districts.
The National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal confirmed that the deaths of crows in Jhalawar were due to avian influenza.
The wildlife department has issued advisories asking officials to keep a tab on deaths of birds and collect samples of the dead birds which will be sent to Bhopal for testing. The officials have been asked to dispose of the dead birds by burying their carcasses in deep pits and sprinkling sodium hypochlorite on them.
“The main aim is to prevent the spread of the flu. We have asked officials to keep tabs on any bird deaths. They have been asked to collect samples and to dispose of carcasses safely so that no other animal eats it which could lead to the spread of the flu,” said Mohan Lal Meena, Chief Wildlife Warden.
He said there is a possibility that the bird flu has spread through migratory birds that visit wetlands in Rajasthan in large numbers in winter. “This virus is not found in our state and it is possible that it has come through migratory birds. So we have asked officials to monitor wetlands and to report if any deaths occur,” he said.
While over 100 crows have died in Jhalawar and Jodhpur, around 50 crows and peacocks were found dead in Kalwa village of Nagaur district and 60 hens were found dead in Panwar area of Jhalawar.
Dr Virendra Singh, director of the animal husbandry department, said avian influenza has only been confirmed in crows so far.
“Only crows that were found dead in Jhalawar have tested positive for the H5 avian influenza. No other bird death has been caused due to bird flu,” he said.
He said the department has issued advisories to officials to monitor all areas where the bird deaths have been reported. “All areas are under surveillance and the situation is under control,” he said.
The samples taken from dead crows in Radi ke Balaji area of Jhalawar were sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal which confirmed that the birds died due to avian influenza.
Following the confirmation, Jhalawaar collector Ngikya Gohain ordered section 144 in the one km area of Balaji temple where the crows had died. All poultry and egg shops have been shut down and samples were collected and sent to Bhopal for testing.
Gohain said the officials suspect that the bird flu has spread from migratory birds that visit Jhalawar in the winter as migratory birds are known to carry avian flu virus.
Deaths of crows were also reported from Jodhpur. In the past week over 150 crows died in Chopasani, Chokha and Lal Sagar areas of Jodhpur and the animal husbandry department has sounded an alert. Notably, a large number of migratory birds flock to Jodhpur too during the winter for nesting.
Avian influenza or bird flu is a type of influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds. The avian influenza type A virus is very contagious and can be fatal for birds and domesticated species. It can also spread to humans.
Last year in December, thousands of migratory birds had died at the Sambhar Lake, the largest inland saltwater lake in the country, near Jaipur due to avian botulism.