Bird Flu: Admin says taking precautions, doctors say prepared for it

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Amid growing cases of Bird Flu in Kashmir region including in the summer capital Srinagar, doctors and authorities said that they are prepared to fight the virus and there is no need to panic.

“We are completely prepared,” said Dr. Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent of Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS). “People need to take the same precautions as that of COVID-19.”

The dead crows lifted from the area near Delhi Public School at Athwajan and the Flood Spill Channel at Peerbagh in Srinagar had tested positive for avian influenza two days ago. The birds were found to have died due to the H5N8 strain of the flu.

The cases of bird flu have emerged at a time when the Kashmir region has managed to contain the threat of COVID19, a viral infection which had led to several months of lockdown before the number of infections fell down drastically.

According to the 2016 assessment of the World Health Organisation (WHO), human infection with the H5N8 virus cannot be excluded “although the likelihood is low” based on the limited information obtained to date.

After the incidents in Srinagar, the district administration had announced that the ten-kilometer radius area around the two locations was declared as “an alert zone” and surveillance and sampling will be conducted to ascertain and prevent the spread.

“It’s a viral disease like Swine Flu, COVID-19 and need to be dealt the same way,” said Salim Khan, HOD Community Medicine at Government Medical College Srinagar. He said that people need to follow the guidelines issued by animal husbandry that had asked people to maintain distance from wild birds and migratory birds.

For the people who own the poultry farms, Khan said, “they have to take precautions like keeping their birds at a safe distance from migratory and wild birds.”

He added: “If the owner feels a flu like situation, they need to consult a doctor or find something suspicious in their birds, they need to tell the animal husbandry as soon as possible.”

Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had banned the import of poultry across J-K till 14 January, after cases of bird flu emerged in the neighboring states and mass deaths of birds were recorded in at least two districts of Jammu. The ban was lifted on 22 January.

However, within days of lifting the ban, the samples sent from several districts of the region had tested positive for the avian flu following which fresh advisories were issued by the administration.

“All concerned departments are working actively, surveillance is in all the districts. Samples are being taken from poultry trucks,” Shahid Choudhary, District Magistrate (DC) Srinagar, said in a video interview with news channels.

He said that the precautions were important than panic. “We are doing everything to curb the spread of virus including sanitising the farms and regular sampling of birds being imported from outside the valley.”

Choudhary added: “Teams and departments are on alert and if something happens, an advisory will be issued accordingly, there is no need to panic.”

He said that the experts believe that there is no risk in poultry consumption.

Choudhary stated that as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) any poultry farm where cases of flu are found, birds are being killed and the farmers are being compensated.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jan said: “I don’t think it is as deadly as COVID-19 but let’s just wait for the things to unfold.”

He added that the people who are associated with the poultry should take precautions like wash their hands, wear proper protection kits after getting in contact with their birds.

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