A sample from a poultry bird lifted from Srinagar was reported positive for avian influenza on Wednesday, necessitating culling and other containment measures in the vicinity from today. This is the first confirmation of infected poultry in Srinagar and the first culling drive here.
Dr Mushtaq Ahmed Shah, Joint Director Poultry division (Animal Husbandry department) said culling was ordered on Thursday and will be carried out for three days. The sample, he said, was taken from a backyard farm in the Balgarden area of Srinagar two weeks ago. "It was a carcass sample and we had sent it outside for testing. The confirmation was received on 17 March," he said while detailing the event.
Dr Shah said all the birds, domestic and commercial, in the 1 km vicinity of the spot from where the sample was taken will be slaughtered to prevent the spread of avian influenza. He however said that it was
unlikely that there was any "widespread" infection in the area given the "no other adverse event" has been reported from the spot.
A letter by Animal Husbandry department to District Administration Srinagar states that Joint Secretary Animal Husbandry and Dairying (GoI) has confirmed H5N8 infection in the sample (dated 07 March) tested at Reference Laboratory (ICAR-NISHAD). The letter has called for "necessary actions as listed in the Action Plan of Animal Husbandry". The action, Dr Shah, would include fumigation and increased surveillance for the bird flu in the area. "This is the first time we will have culling in Srinagar district," he said.
As per the data regarding the incidence of avian influenza in Kashmir division, 33 samples have tested positive for H5N8 out of 1157. Of these, 4 samples have been from the poultry birds and 29 from crows. Dr Shah said crows appear to be the most affected birds by avian influenza in Kashmir and although strict surveillance was being maintained on poultry, there was very low incidence of the flu. He said samples were being tested at the Research Laboratory of the department and in case a confirmation was required, the sample was sent to a reference lab outside the UT as well.
The cases include the report of infection among geese in Bandipora where a culling drive was carried out last month. One sample from Baramulla district from a commercial poultry bird was also reported positive last month.