| A farmer feeds his chicken on Monday in Tezpur, where poultry sale has been banned following the outbreak of bird flu. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Guwahati, Dec. 15: Putting all speculation to rest, the Assam forest department today ruled out migratory birds being responsible for carrying the H5N1 virus — that causes avian flu — to the state.
“Samples of migratory birds’ excreta, from almost all the districts of Assam where these birds flock during winter, tested negative,” a senior official said. Feed for poultry or chicks, brought from outside the state, could have spread the virus, he added.
The veterinary department will be sending samples of poultry feed which were recently brought to the state, for testing to the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
“It should be ascertained whether the poultry feed in Hajo and Dibrugarh was procured from the same source outside the state,” the official said.
Bird flu was first confirmed at Hajo in Kamrup district nearly 20 days back.
The virus was detected in Dibrugarh town a fortnight later.
Bird flu has now been confirmed in six districts and the veterinary department’s rapid response teams are engaged in culling operations. Poultry at the Assam state zoo are also being culled.
Of the 22 birds culled there today, two were geese, eight adult chickens, two chicks and 10 ducks.
“Though the zoo does not fall within the 3-km radius of Khanapara, we decided to undertake operations here as a special case,” a zoo official said.
Though the forest department has given a “clean chit” to the migratory birds, forest officials have not disclosed it to the villagers to save these birds from being poached.
“The fear of contracting flu has come as a blessing for our winter guests,” the forest official said.
Numerous waterbodies along the Brahmaputra turn into a haven for migratory birds during the winter months, making them easy prey for poachers.
“Forget about coming into contact with these birds; do not even approach the nearby areas inhabited by these birds. Even stepping on their excreta is dangerous,” forest officials cautioned villagers at a meeting held today on the bank of the Brahmaputra in Jorhat district.
The president of Socio-Ecological and Health Welfare Association (SHEWA) — an NGO based in Upper Assam — Heman Saikia, confirmed that killing of birds had come down to almost nil in the last few weeks.
“Our men are on a constant vigil along the river bank, but we have not come across any report of migratory birds being killed in the last few days,” he confirmed.
Saikia said fewer birds have arrived this year compared to previous years.
He said the NGO would organise a bicycle rally on Friday to create awareness among villagers not to kill migratory birds.