In what may give a sigh of relief to all, no sample has been found positive for avian influenza (bird flu) in the past one week in Kashmir, the first time in the past three months.
Officials believe that the circulation of the viral infection has thinned down drastically now.
Since the third week of January, when bird flu testing was started in Srinagar's Vaccine Production and Research Center Zakura, nearly 1500 samples have been tested there, official data reveals. Over the past 10 weeks, 33 samples of 1490 that underwent testing were found positive. However, since 19 March, of the 316 samples tested in the Kashmir division, not a single has been found infected with any strain of avian influenza. In addition, no bird death has been reported to the government in the past six days, Dr Mushtaq Ahmed Shah, Joint Director Poultry Division Kashmir said.
The spread of bird flu across India had hit the poultry sector across the UT.
Dr Shah said the sale of poultry fell considerably as people preferred avoiding the meat for fear of contracting the flu. "Although getting infected with well-cooked poultry and poultry products is not possible, bird flu scare always creates such a scenario," he said.
In the past three months, four samples of poultry were found positive. In a first culling drive, over 500 birds, mostly backyard reared, were culled in Bandipora last month. Earlier this month, a sample from poultry was found positive in Srinagar too.
J&K Government, in wake of the spread of avian flu had restricted the entry of poultry birds into the UT. "Most of the birds being sold in Kashmir currently are locally bred," Dr Shah said adding that the department was inspecting and sampling the poultry farms in every district as part of its surveillance," he said.
The department has maintained that there was 'sparse activity" of the bird flu in Kashmir and that the poultry sector in the UT was largely free from the viral infection.
"Now we are more confident given our increase in surveillance and testing and the drastic decrease in the number of cases, including those in crows and other birds," he said.
In Kashmir, rise in mortality of crows was reported since February this year, with many of the samples from carcasses testing positive.