Chandigarh avian flu: Culling of birds begins

Chandigarh (IANS): Authorities in Chandigarh Thursday evening started culling of all birds in and around the city’s famous Sukhna lake after a dead goose was confirmed with the H5N1 (avian influenza or bird flu) virus.

“On communication received from the central government, culling of all birds in the vicinity of Sukhna lake — ducks and geese, live or dead — will be done and buried as per the action plan and bio-security measure set up by the WHO,” said a spokesman of the Chandigarh administration.

“The operation started at 4 p.m. with the help of all the concerned departments, primarily animal husbandry, wildlife and Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh, director health services and engineering department. The operation will go on till midnight and no bird will be left unburied,” the spokesman said.

The area around the lake was cordoned off by police and the forest department.

“At this stage, public is advised not to panic and cooperate with the administration. The administration has taken all possible steps to ensure the containment of virus and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The lake and its vicinity “shall remain out of bounds for general public till further orders”, he said.

“At present, there is no assessment regarding any outbreak of bird flu in Chandigarh. The situation is, however, being very closely monitored,” he said.

Police and paramilitary personnel, with masks on their faces, were stationed at the lake complex since early Thursday to cordon off the entire area.

Scores of morning walkers, who throng the lake every day, and other visitors were kept away from the lake complex.

Over 30 geese at the lake had died under mysterious circumstances in recent days. The Sukhna lake has nearly 250 ducks and geese, which are a star attraction for visitors.

The presence of the H5N1 virus was confirmed in a sample from one dead goose by the Bhopal-based National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) Wednesday.

Ducks and geese have been dying for the past 10 days and officials initially thought the deaths could be due to food poisoning or over-feeding.

The Punjab government said it was closely monitoring the bird flu situation in Chandigarh and officials have been directed to take all precautionary measures to check the outbreak of the disease, Health and Family Welfare Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani said Thursday.

The Haryana government also put concerned authorities on alert Thursday and told them to monitor the bird flu situation in Chandigarh.

The Sukhna lake is in an upscale, high-security area of Chandigarh – the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana and a union territory.

The residences of the Haryana and Punjab governors, senior officers and other influential people are located close to the lake complex.