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Opinion

Five States Have Reported an Avian Flu Outbreak – Here’s All You Need to Know

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After at least five states in India reported bird deaths due to bird flu in the past week, the Center has issued an advisory to all states asking them to test migratory bird and poultry droppings to prevent the spread. About 24,500 birds have died and thousands more are infected. Here’s an explanation on the severity of the 2021 bird flu threat.

What is avian influenza or bird flu?

Avian flu is a highly contagious viral disease caused by type A influenza viruses that generally affects poultry such as chickens and turkeys. Birds are normally the carriers of the virus, carrying it over great distances, affecting a large population of birds on all continents. There are many strains of the virus and most of them are mild and can simply cause low egg production or other mild symptoms among chickens. However, some are serious and lethal causing the death of large numbers of birds.

How is bird flu spread?

Wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, are the natural reservoir for influenza A viruses and central players in the ecology of these viruses. Many birds are carriers of the flu without developing the disease and shed it with their droppings. Since birds excrete even while flying, they provide a pleasant aerosol of the influenza virus, a likely reason why crows contract the virus in India. Some other birds feed on the droplets, contract the disease, and also become carriers. Sometimes, which is rare, the virus passes to mammals such as pigs, horses, cats and dogs.

What strains have been found in India?

The Bhopal-based National Institute for High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), the accredited laboratory for confirming avian influenza, has detected two strains of influenza viruses so far. They are H5N8, a subtype of avian influenza found in poultry and wild animals, which has been found in crows in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The strain poses a low risk to humans and is very lethal to wild birds and poultry. The second strain found is H5N1 in ducks in Kerala and migratory birds in Himachal. It is very infectious and causes serious respiratory diseases in birds. Human cases of H5N1 are rare, but if infected, the death rate is about 60% according to the World Health Organization.

Which states in India have been affected?

NIHSAD has so far identified 12 epicenters in Rajasthan (Baran, Kota, Jhalawar), Madhya Pradesh (Mandsaur, Indore, Malwa), Himachal Pradesh (Kangra), and Kerala (Kottayam, Alappuzha). Furthermore, deaths from bird flu have also been reported in Haryana and Uttarakhand. The Himachal Kangra district magistrate banned the sale or slaughter of poultry in the alert zone and closed all poultry or fish shops. In Rajasthan, Section 144 was imposed within a 1 km radius of infected areas in Jhalawar and Baran districts. In the districts of Kerala, Kottayam and Alappuzha, about 38,000 ducks have been slaughtered.

Why does bird flu affect India?

According to the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), India is the epicenter, as the flight paths of distant birds cross the skies of the country and India is also a terminal destination for many of those streams, making it at a biological tipping point for bird diseases. Nearly 370 species of birds, from the northern hummingbird to the yellow-rump flycatcher, cross India from Europe, Russia and Mongolia each year, according to BNHS. This time, the disease comes from Siberia, Mangolia, China and some other Central Asian countries.

What countries other than India are affected?

In recent weeks, avian influenza has affected at least 10 European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Croatia and Ukraine, according to the European Center for the Prevention and Control of Diseases (ECDC). Cases have also been reported in South Korea and Japan, where this has been the worst avian flu outbreak on record, reaching more than 20% of their 47 prefectures. To control avian influenza, France would slaughter around 600,000 poultry. In Germany, around 62,000 turkeys and ducks will be slaughtered after being affected by the H5N8 bird flu. South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture ordered the temporary closure of poultry farms and related transportation in October to contain a wider spread of bird flu. Japan’s government has also called for the disinfection of poultry farms across the country after infections were detected in six regional prefectures since November.

How does bird flu infect humans?

So far, no human infection has been reported in India. As of December 17, 2020, a total of 239 cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus have been reported in four countries: Cambodia, China, Vietnam and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, since 2003. Of these cases , 134 were fatal. . The latest case was reported in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on October 13, 2020 (one case, no death), according to WHO. The first human case to contract bird flu occurred after an outbreak at a Hong Kong live bird market in 1997. It was the H5N1 strain of the virus, and 6 of the 18 infected humans died from the disease. A few years later, the virus returned, killing many people in various other parts of the world and causing hundreds of human deaths, particularly in Southeast Asia. Generally, people who come in close contact with live or dead infected birds have contracted H5N1 bird flu, and it is not generally transmitted from person to person, according to the WHO, which also said there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted. to people through properly prepared and cooked poultry feeds.

What are the economic implications of bird flu?

Central government records show that almost 400 million rupees have been paid to poultry farmers until 2016 as compensation for the mass killing of birds. Worldwide, the estimated loss globally was $ 200 billion in 2016. In its recent report, the WHO said that bird flu greatly hampers the poultry industry.

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