The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that it has deployed multi-disciplinary teams Alappuzha and Kottayam districts in Kerala and Haryana’s Panchkula district, which have been affected by the avian influenza. Thousands of birds, including migratory ones, have died since December across different states.

In Haryana, four lakh poultry birds have died in unusual circumstances in the last 10 days in 20 poultry farms in the Panchkula district. In Kerala, around 12,000 ducks have died over the last few days. H5N1 avian influenza virus was confirmed in five of the eight samples tested in the state. H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza, according to the World Health Organization.

The two teams, comprising experts from National Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Virology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh and New Delhi’s Dr RML Hospital and Lady Hardinge Medical College were deployed to the affected districts on Monday, a statement by the health ministry said on Wednesday. The statement said the teams would assist the state health departments in the implementation of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s Avian Influenza containment plan.

Another high-level team, comprising the National Cooperative Development Corporation director and Ministry of Food Processing Industries joint secretary, was sent to Kerala on Wednesday to oversee the implementation of containment operations of the influenza.

“Department of Animal Husbandry as per laid down protocol has issued alerts to further intensify surveillance to detect any case in poultry birds,” it said, adding that no human has so far been infected with the Avian Influenza.

The Centre also said that 12 epicentres of the outbreak were reported from different districts of Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. In a statement, the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying said that it has issued advisories to these states to contain the spread of the infection.

In order to avoid the spread of the infection, Kerala has started the culling of chickens and ducks across the state. “A total of 17,326 birds [9,066 in Pallipad, 8,260 in Karuvatta] have been culled and a total of 1,570 kg feed have been destroyed in epicentres of district of Alappuzha,” the animal husbandry ministry said. “At epicenter in district of Kottayam 4,229 birds have been culled and a total of 8 kg feed and 42 eggs have been destroyed on 6.01.2021 [January 6].”

In addition, 7,111 domestic birds in Haryana and 150 in Madhya Pradesh, 10 crows in Gujarat and 336 migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh were found dead under unusual circumstances on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Centre has set up a control room in the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, New Delhi, to coordinate and facilitate state government in connection with the outbreak management, disease control and containment process.

Earlier, the environment ministry has asked states to form monitoring committees for the avian influenza. “Samples have been tested at the ICAR-National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, and have been found to be positive for H5Nl Avian Influenza Virus,” a letter by the ministry’s chief secretary to states read. “...Take up surveillance and monitoring of birds, for any signs of disease, and take appropriate measures for controlling it, on priority.”

According to the Centre’s advisory, samples of migratory, dead birds should be collected with utmost caution and under scientific supervision. It added that surveillance should be extended to all wetlands and habitats that host migratory birds and areas with any possibility of interaction of migratory and poultry birds.

The affected states have also been asked to send weekly reports to the ministry. As a precautionary measure, Jammu and Kashmir has sounded an alert and started collecting samples from migratory birds. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu too have stepped up surveillance and framed guidelines. The latter has banned influx of chicken and eggs from Kerala in view of the outbreak, and sounded alerts in the bordering areas.