She said that the outbreak has so far been confined to two adjoining forest beats and bird fatalities are higher during days of adverse weather because that is when the geese tend to flock together instead of flying out, leading to more transmission of the virus.
An international Ramsar site has an area that extends upto 220 square kilometres during the wet season, the Pong wetland becomes home to flocks of migratory waterfowl each winter when wetlands in Europe and North and Central Asia become frozen. A bird census in the sanctuary in February revealed the presence of more than one lakh migratory
water birds of 51 different species at the lake, including more than 40 thousand bar-headed geese.
Sharma said that with the onset of summer, the migratory birds are now flying back to their parent wetlands and many of the birds currently present in the lake are those which have flown from Rajasthan and other parts of the country, stopping here on their northward journey.“The sanctuary has been closed for visitors, and the bird flu action plan has been activated, which includes surveillance, testing and scientific disposal of dead birds,” she said.
Officials said that sporadic incidents of deaths of other birds have also been reported from other parts of the state, including Theog and Manali, and their samples have been sent for testing by the animal husbandry department.
“The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal has confirmed the presence of H5N8 avian influenza among the samples of the dead birds.