'Wiped' bird flu back

India is scrambling to stamp out an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus that popped up last month in poultry birds in Dasarahalli village near Bangalore, about six months after India declared itself free of this virus.

By G.S. Mudur
  • Published 16.01.18
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New Delhi: India is scrambling to stamp out an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus that popped up last month in poultry birds in Dasarahalli village near Bangalore, about six months after India declared itself free of this virus.

The Bhopal-based National Institute for High Security Animal Diseases has confirmed the infection as the highly pathogenic avian influenza serotype H5N8, the Union agriculture ministry told the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on Monday.

The infection was detected after nine birds among 951 susceptible birds died. The other 942 were killed, according to the OIE report which has cited information provided by Devendra Chaudhry, the secretary for animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries.

The report has noted December 26 as the start date of the event and December 30 as the date on which the infection was confirmed. The "case fatality rate" was 100 per cent, reflecting the lethal nature of the virus and, the report said. The source of the outbreak remains "unknown or inconclusive".

India's control measures include disposal of dead birds and disinfection of the affected zones, intensified surveillance outside the containment and protection zones, and controls on movement of poultry birds, the report said.

The World Health Organisation had last year urged countries to step up their efforts to detect possible human avian flu cases as many countries reported outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus.

Over 50 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe have reported outbreaks of H5N8 since 2016. A January 3, 2018, situation update from the Food and Agricultural Organisation said no human cases have been reported to date.

India had reported outbreaks of H5N8 in Delhi and Gwalior zoos and in Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat and Odisha between October 2016 and February 2017.

Each of those outbreaks was followed by culling, disinfection, clean-up and surveillance and India had declared itself free of the H5N8 virus on June 6, 2017.

Scientists from the Bhopal laboratory who had conducted genetic analysis of the H5N8 viruses isolated from affected birds in Delhi and Gwalior zoos had suggested that winter birds migrating from China or Siberia might have ferried the virus into India.