With Kumbh-2013 coinciding with the time of arrival of freshwater migratory birds from China at the Sangam, the forest department is preparing to keep a watch on the winged visitors for any sign of bird flu.
Forest department officials said that incidence of bird flu was not common, but there was a need to remain prepared as containing any such development at a time when the Kumbh is in full flow will become difficult.
Every year, the migratory freshwater gulls arrive in large numbers from China through Tibet and settle along the rivers like Ganga and Yamuna in the entire Indo-Gangetic belt. Sangam — the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna — has been a favourite area for them, as it gives them a large habitat.
Depending on the intensity of the cold, the arrival of migratory birds usually begins by November-end and they stay here till the beginning of March. Kumbh-2013 will begin on January 14 and continue for nearly two months.
Allahabad’s Divisional Forest Officer Ashok Dikshit said: “Any migrating bird can be a potential carrier of bird flu. If the arrival of freshwater gulls leads to an outbreak of such a disease, we need to have the apparatus in place to contain and nip it then and there.”
Pointing out that the
disease can spread among other birds and even human beings, who will be present in large numbers during the fair, Dikshit said that surveillance and preparedness is the only method to keep things in control, if, as and when they happen.
“We will have our teams positioned at various places within the district to keep track of these birds. There is a possibility that birds which frequent the Sangam area in normal times may be forced to move elsewhere due to large human presence. But we cannot leave things to chance. There would also be surveillance boats keeping a watch around the Sangam area,” said Dikshit.
In case, a bird with symptoms of bird flu is sighted, there would be teams to quarantine them and send the sample to Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, said Dikshit.
“We will also work towards making people aware so that our teams can be informed when anything unusual is sighted,” said the DFO. For instance, one of the symptoms of a bird having the infection is it falling on the ground with its mouth open.
“Due to infection, the birds have difficulty in breathing and are forced to breathe through the mouth,” he said.