Park in Indian capital shut after suspected bird flu deaths

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2016 4:01 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — City authorities have closed a sprawling park in the heart of New Delhi after eight birds died of suspected bird flu, days after the city zoo was closed to the public after nine birds died there.

New Delhi's Development Minister Gopal Rai said Friday that eight bird deaths were reported to city authorities on Thursday. These included two more bird deaths in the Delhi Zoo and two dead birds found in the Hauz Khas Deer Park.

City officials said three dead crows were also found in a residential neighborhood near the zoo. All the dead birds have been sent for autopsies to be conducted.

The zoo was closed to the public Tuesday after autopsies on the birds confirmed that at least three had died from H5N1 avian influenza.

Rai said autopsy results of the birds that died Thursday were not known yet but the government was taking the precautionary step of closing the park.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus poses no apparent threat to humans, but highly pathogenic strains can be deadly to domestic poultry and, rarely, wild birds.

Rai said vacations had been canceled for all employees of the city's animal husbandry department in case more dead birds are found.

Animal health officials were visiting the capital's main poultry markets and taking samples from different batches of chickens brought for sale.

"We are closely monitoring bird sanctuaries, poultry farms and chicken wholesale markets," Rai said.

The Hauz Khas Deer Park is home to hundreds of deer, peacocks and other birds. Described as one of the few "green lungs" of the highly polluted capital, the park is popular with joggers and walkers.

At this time of the year, bird sanctuaries, wildlife parks and water bodies across northern India are crowded with migratory birds flying south for the winter.