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In the wake of death of eight water birds due to H5 avian influenza at the the Delhi zoo, bird sanctuaries, poultry farms and chicken markets in the city will be closely monitored, the city government today said. Delhi Development Minister Gopal Rai said the situation is "not alarming" for now and added that the influenza doesn't affect humans directly. Rai, who heads the state Animal Husbandry Department, said National Zoological Park (Delhi zoo) has been shut for three days as part of precautionary measures. The minister went to the zoo with officials today to take stock of the situation. He said this is for the first time that H5 avian influenza has affected birds here. The government has set up a monitoring cell and issued a helpline number (011-23890318) appealing Delhiites to inform in case they spot dead birds in their vicinity. At the zoo, a ten-member team will be closely monitoring the situation. "We've constituted six rapid action teams to monitor the situation in Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Ghazipur Murga Mandi, Yamuna Diversity Park, Najafgarh Drain, Nizamuddin, where migratory birds come in good numbers," he told reporters here. Rai said the dead birds were "migratory" which indicates that there are some affected points in their transit route due to which birds at Delhi zoo also got affected. "We are taking steps to prevent spread of virus. Tomorrow, we are holding a meeting with officials of Health, Revenue and other concerned departments. "In the meeting, discussion on medical arrangements in city's hospitals will also be made so that people don't face any problem in case of emergency," he said. Asked about human infection, Rai said that according to experts, birds are only affected. "If people consume infected chicken, they can get affected. If virus spread and its symptoms are spotted, we will put some restrictions," he further said. Rai also said the Delhi government has called a meeting on Friday with a team of officials of Maharashtra, which effectively dealt with this virus 10 years ago. Ten birds have died in the last 10 days and out of them, eight have died due to the H5 avian influenza. Two birds died while On October 14 while six were found dead the next day. "We had sent samples of these dead birds to Jhalandar lab which detected symptoms of some virus. For second opinion, we had sent these samples to Bhopal-based laboratory run by the Centre which also confirmed the same," he said. He said that on October 17, one more bird died.
Today as well, one bird was found dead. The reason behind their death has not been confirmed.
India had declared itself free from bird flu in September. In a statement, the Centre had also emphasised the need for "continued surveillance especially in the vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds". Bird flu affects mainly the domestic poultry. The disease spreads from infected birds to other winged creatures through contact with nasal and respiratory secretions and also due to contamination of feed and water. Last time, the virus was detected in Chandigarh. In 2004, Kerela Bird sanctuary witnessed outbreak of the influenza. In 2006, poultry farm in Maharashtra was severely affected due to the bird flue. In 2008, it was detected in West Bengal Poultry Farm. Delhi's National Zoological Park has been battling a spate of animal deaths since early this year. Over 40 spotted deer were found dead on its premises in January.