• Bird flu (Avian Influenza) outbreak has been reported at 12 epicentres in four states — Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Advisories have been issued to contain further spread of the infection in poultry ducks, crows and migratory birds.
The 12 epicentres are:
Rajasthan (crow) – Baran, Kota, Jhalawar
Madhya Pradesh (crow) – Mandsaur, Indore, Malwa
Himachal Pradesh (migratory birds) - Kangra
Kerala (poultry-duck) - Kottayam, Alappuzha (4 epicentres).
• The Centre has deployed multi-disciplinary teams in bird flu-affected areas of Kerala and Haryana.
What is Avian Influenza?
• Avian Influenza (AI) is a contagious viral disease affecting several species of food producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc), as well as pet birds and wild birds. Occasionally mammals, including humans, may contract Avian Influenza, says World Organisation For Animal Health (OIE).
• Avian Influenza has captured the attention of the international community over the years, with outbreaks in poultry having serious consequences on both livelihoods and international trade in many countries.
• Although most Avian Influenza viruses do not infect humans, some, such as Avian Influenza H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, are well known to the public because of their implication in serious and sometimes fatal infections in people.
• H5N1, for example, a highly pathogenic AI virus, was initially diagnosed in humans in Hong Kong in 1997. The virus then re-emerged in 2003 and 2004, and spread from Asia to Europe and Africa causing several hundred human cases and deaths, as well as destruction of hundreds of millions of poultry. This Asiatic form of H5N1 triggered concern from scientists and authorities and remains under close surveillance due to its feared pandemic potential if a mutation allows it to be transmitted from human to human.
• Nowadays, due to ongoing circulation of various strains (H5N1, H5N2, H5N8, H7N8, etc), outbreaks of Avian Influenza continue to be a global public health concern.
• Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is an extremely contagious, multi-organ systemic disease of poultry leading to high mortality, and caused by some H5 and H7 subtypes of type A influenza virus.
• India notified the first outbreak of Avian Influenza in 2006. Since then, outbreaks have been reported in many states. The disease spreads mainly by migratory birds coming into India during winter months, September–October to February–March. The secondary spread by human handling (through fomites) cannot be ruled out.
How is bird flu spread among birds?
The virus is contagious and can be spread to susceptible birds through:
• Direct contact with nasal and respiratory secretions from infected birds.
• Direct contact with the faeces of infected birds.
• Contamination of feed and water.
• Contact with contaminated equipment.
What are the measures taken by the Centre and states?
• The Union ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying has set up a control room in New Delhi to keep a watch on the situation and control measures are being taken as per the guidelines of a national action plan for Avian Influenza.
The measures suggested to the affected states to contain the disease and prevent further spread include:
• Strengthening the biosecurity of poultry farms.
• Disinfection of affected areas.
• Proper disposal of dead birds/carcasses.
• Timely collection and submission of samples for confirmation and further surveillance.
• Intensification of surveillance plan as well as the general guidelines for prevention of disease spread from affected birds to poultry and humans.
• Coordination with the forest department for reporting any unusual mortality of birds was also suggested to the states.
• Other states were also requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures.
• Teams have been deployed in Haryana’s Panchkula district and in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts of Kerala.
• Reports of Avian Influenza have been received from poultry samples from Panchkula district, a day after samples were collected from farms by the Jalandhar-based Regional Disease Diagnosis Laboratory (RDDL) in the wake of over four lakh poultry birds dying in the past 10 days.
• Two multi-disciplinary teams comprising experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Institute of Virology, PGIMER Chandigarh, RML Hospital and Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi, have been deployed to the affected districts on January 4 to assist the health departments of the states.
• Over 69,000 birds, including ducks and chickens, have been culled in two Kerala districts to contain the H5N8 strain of bird flu. The ban on sale of bird meat and eggs in these regions will continue, and farmers will be compensated accordingly. Culling was done in and around a one-km radius of the affected areas in the two districts.
• Rajasthan reported that bird flu was detected in Sawai Madhopur, after Jhalawar, Kota, Baran and Jaipur districts.
• In Madhya Pradesh, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the state will not allow entry of chicken consignments from Kerala and other southern states for the next 10 days. Avian Influenza is the cause of mass deaths of crows in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore, Mandsaur and Agar Malwa districts.
• Authorities in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh started random sampling of poultry around a wetland, where 3,000 migratory birds have died since December 28. Around 500 dead poultry birds were also found dumped by the side of a highway in the hill state’s Solan district and officials said that samples have been collected from there too.
• Though no case of bird flu has been reported in Punjab, authorities have asked officials to be alert and keep tabs on any unusual deaths of migratory and poultry birds in the state. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have issued similar alerts and advisories.