India begins culling thousands of birds amid avian flu outbreak

India begins culling tens of thousands of birds after outbreak of avian flu in wild geese, crows and ducks

  • Deadly avian influenza has killed thousands of ducks, chickens, crows and migratory birds including wild geese in the past week
  • Nearly 35,000 poultry in southern Kerala state culled after H5N8 virus outbreak
  • At least six Indian states stepped up efforts to contain two strains of bird flu 
  • WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT 

India has begun culling tens of thousands of poultry after an outbreak of deadly avian influenza was found to have killed scores of birds across the country, officials said Tuesday.     

At least six Indian states have stepped up efforts to contain two strains of bird flu – H5N1 and H5N8 – in recent days after the deaths of thousands of ducks, chickens, crows and migratory birds such as wild geese. 

H5N8, an Avian influenza subtype among poultry and wild birds, has spread across several countries since early last year.

India has begun culling tens of thousands of poultry after an outbreak of deadly avian influenza was found to have killed scores of birds across the country, officials said Tuesday. Pictured: Health workers begin cull of ducks in Kuruvatta of Alapuzha district, Kerala state

Health workers in protective suits begin culling ducks after the H5N8 bird flu strain was detected, in Karuvatta of Alapuzha district, Kerala state

H5N8, an Avian influenza subtype among poultry and wild birds, has spread across several countries since early last year. Pictured: Health workers begin culling ducks in Kerala state

Officials in northern Himachal Pradesh state said carcasses were found over the past week at a Himalayan lake that witnesses large flocks of migratory birds during the winter season.

‘The death toll in the last week or so at the Pong lake crossed 2,400 migratory birds. Over 600 birds died on Monday,’ state wildlife chief Archana Sharma said.

Samples sent to the Indian National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases tested positive for H5N1, officials added.

Most of the dead were Central Asian high-altitude bar-headed geese – one of the world’s highest flying birds – that migrate to South Asia in their thousands during the winter season.

Officials in northern Himachal Pradesh state said carcasses were found over the past week at a Himalayan lake that witnesses large flocks of migratory birds during the winter season

Samples from the dead birds sent to the Indian National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases tested positive for H5N1, officials added. Wildlife officials collect the dead birds near Pong Dam reservoir

The migratory birds that died and tested positive for Avian Influenza were burned 

Local authorities have banned the sale and export of poultry in the region and have stepped-up testing to control the spread.

The mass deaths came amid a cull of nearly 35,000 poultry in Karuvatta of Alapuzha district, southern Kerala state, where an H5N8 virus outbreak killed up to 12,000 ducks.

Authorities said the slaughter was ordered within a one kilometre (0.6 mile) radius of the infection epicentre.

Government officials for Kerala state said after the ducks were slaughtered, they were burned with firewood, diesel and sugar. 

After the burning is completed, a special team of experts will sanitise the area. 

Health workers in protective suits prepare to set fire after culling ducks following the detection of H5N8 strain of bird flu among domestic birds in Alappuzha district, Kerala state, India

Culled ducks are put in a hole for burial at Harippad in Alappuzha district in India’s state Kerala

Following the outbreak in neighbouring Kerala, Tamil Nadu state announced a contingency plan for the management of possible human cases. 

‘Avian influenza spreads rapidly, there could be a likelihood of humans getting affected,’ J Radhakrishnan, health secretary for Tamil Nadu state, told Indian news website Firstpost.  

‘So, as a precaution, the directorate general of health services has evolved a contingency plan for the management of human cases.’  

In northern Haryana state authorities said nearly 150,000 chickens died mysteriously across several poultry farms in Barwala district. Neighbouring Punjab also reported similar deaths.

More than 20 farms said their flocks were wiped out by an ‘unknown disease’ and samples have been sent to labs for testing.

Western Rajasthan and central Madhya Pradesh states have also reported hundreds of crow deaths caused by H5N1 and H5N8 over past weeks.

Rajasthan had already seen nearly 4,500 crows and herons die over several months from avian flu.

India has witnessed bouts of devastating bird flu outbreaks in recent decades, most seriously in 2008, when millions of poultry were culled. 

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