Around 1800 migratory birds found dead at Pong Dam Lake in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh have tested bird flu positive. After Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, Himachal is the fourth state to report avian influenza lately.

According to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Archana Sharma, the laboratory at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly has found avian influenza in the samples of dead birds. However, the department is awaiting confirmation from the nodal body, National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal. As per wildlife officials, 96 percent of dead birds were Bar Headed Geese who migrate from Siberia and Mongolia

A ban has been executed in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora subdivisions of the district regarding slaughtering, sale, purchase and export of any poultry, birds, fish of any breed and their related products, including eggs, meat, chicken, etc. Shops selling all these products will remain shut. Tourist activities have also been prohibited in and around the Pong Dam Sanctuary.

In Rajasthan, 250 crows were found dead in half a dozen districts. Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Kottayam and Alappuzha districts in Kerala also reported cases of bird flu. A red alert has been sounded at Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha, where a team of veterinary doctors collected serum samples and wet faecal droppings. Awareness regarding the disease is being spread around villages near the national park.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Environment, Science and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued a set of guidelines and strict vigil on the winter habitats of migratory birds.

For the uninitiated, bird flu caused by the H5N1 influenza virus is a severe respiratory disease in birds. It is highly infectious. Occasionally it can infect humans as well.