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Centre rules out mass culling of birds
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NEW DELHI: The government has ruled out mass culling of birds in response to an avian flu that has killed nearly 70 birds in two weeks.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that the type of bird flu in India poses no risk to humans directly.

“H5N8 type is highly pathogenic but it isn’t known to transmit to humans,” the government said, citing a WHO update on India.

This is the first time this strain has been reported in India.

A grey partridge was confirmed to have died of the disease at New Delhi’s National Zoological Park earlier this week, but officials said there appeared to be no need for mass culling.

Bird-handlers have been warned.

Particular kinds of people such as handlers of birds, vets, people in the poultry business, cullers, those who handle carcasses of birds, may be at risk, experts say. The bird flu virus is carried in the respiratory or intestinal tracts of wild and migratory birds.

It spreads to domestic birds through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, especially their droppings, or through contaminated food and water.

However, cooked meat is supposed to be safe.

The flu is supposed to have come from migratory birds who transit several continents.

The Bombay Natural History Society says nearly 370 species of birds, from the northern weather to yellow-rumped flycatcher — crisscross India from Europe, Russia and Mongolia every year.

Amur falcons from Nagaland fly over three oceans to South Africa and onwards to Mongolia, clocking some 22,000 km, beating the air distance between Delhi and San Francisco, which is 8,000 kilometres less.

Bird flu has occurred 24 times across states since the first outbreak 2004.

Government records show nearly Rs4 billion have been paid to poultry farmers since as compensation for mass killing of birds.

In India, which first had a bird flu outbreak (of the H5N1 strain) a decade ago, no cases of the virus infecting humans have been reported yet.

On Oct.18, the National Zoological Park in Delhi shut down temporarily after several birds died of bird flu.

In the following days, reports said five ducks in Hauz Khas’ Deer Park and three crows in Sunder Nagar in the national capital had died of suspected bird flu.

On Oct.21, the Gwalior zoo in Madhya Pradesh closed down after the painted storks died.

In a statement the same day, the Animal Husbandry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture said that samples of birds received from the Delhi and Gwalior zoos had tested positive for the H5N8 strain of the avian influenza virus.

In 2009, the government passed the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, which directs the isolation of infected animals in case of a disease outbreak and allows them to be culled, if deemed necessary.

Civic bodies have also been directed to take care of sanitation near the wet poultry market, especially areas like Okhla, Walled City and around Seelampur, said the document.

Meanwhile, in view of the bird flu outbreak, the Sultanpur National Park authorities in Gurgaon are keeping a close watch on the movement of migratory and other birds, a park official said.

Located on Gurgaon-Farukhnagar Road, this park is home to around 250 species of birds, both resident and migratory. Birds come to the park from as far off as Europe, Siberia and Central Asia.

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