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India becomes Bird flu Free: Is there no cause to worry now?

India declares itself  Bird Flu Free again: Let us do a reality check

Just a week before a government circular claimed that India has attained “country freedom” from the highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N1 also known as bird-flu.  Centre’s Animal Husbandry Department informed the states through a letter that OIE- World Organization for Animal health declared India free from the virus from September 3. There have been no outbreaks of Bird-flu in India in the last few months

H5N1 is a type of virus which is highly infectious in birds and causes bird flu or avian influenza. Human cases of H5N1 is closely linked to the birds (alive or dead) who have the H5N1 virus. World Health Organization recorded 701 human cases of H5N1virus and 407 deaths between 2003 to 2014. A big outbreak of the bird-flu virus in India was seen in 2006.

There were reports of outbreaks of the disease from several places in the last two years. Places like Patharaganja, Malud, Budhibara, Brahmandeo, Kanheipur, Nandala and Epinga in Odhisa Mubarakchak, Babura and Goraho in Bihar and Fazil Khuthari in Jharkhand reported some cases of the disease. However, these cases were amongst birds, such as chickens, ducks and crows and not in humans.

Movement of poultry products and poultry were also restricted to combat bird-flu in India

The circular of government says that India has successfully carried out control and containment operations in these places. Measures like stamping out the entire poultry population of a particular area by culling all the poultry within the 1 km radius of the epicentre of the outbreak. Destroying eggs, litter, feed and any other affected material are sone of the primary government’s protocols. Movement of poultry products and poultry were also restricted if they were originated from the outbreak sites. Sites that were infected were cleaned and disinfected.  Surveillance operations from the government were also carried out in these areas.

The circular of government said that there haven’t been any instances of the presence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.  The country is declared free from avian influenza (H5N1) because of this.

The government will still be very watchful on the surveillance throughout the country to fight bird-flu in India. Border areas which are considered more vulnerable along with those areas where migratory birds are frequent (they may carry H5N1) will be watched closely. The circular also emphasized that the government will not just relax after the success, they will maintain “Strong Vigil” against the disease.

 India has notified the World Organization for Animal Health about India’s freedom from the disease and also about the outbreaks. This organization is responsible for improving the health of animals globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborates with the World Organization for animal health to prevent and control the spread of animal diseases.

Experts and scientists have opined that past outbreaks and containment measures are not a thing to worry about.

FAQs about Bird-flu

How H5N1 affects Human?

The symptoms of an H5N1 virus in a person include early sputum production, mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough) and rapid progression to severe pneumonia. It can lead to acute respiratory distress, sepsis with shock or even death. The WHO says that the current Avian Influenza virus doesn’t easily transmit from person to person. The World Health Organization also suggests that continued transmission among animals is a serious concern. These viruses can cause severe diseases in humans and have the potential to mutate to emerge as more dangerous disease amongst humans.

History of bird-flu (Avian Influenza)

Avian influenza which was known as fowl plague was first recognized in 1878.  Fowl plague included Newcastle disease until the 1950s. There were only 15 recorded occasions with only minimal losses from the emergence of HPAI viruses in poultry from 1959 to 1995. Birds population grew 76% per cent in developing countries and 23% in developed countries. This resulted in an increased prevalence of avian influenza.  Before 1990s Infections caused by HPAI were contained and sporadic.

The infection became more common due to the high density and frequent movement of flocks from intensive poultry production as the time passed by. An H5N1 was first isolated from a goose in China in 1996. The Avian Influenza in humans was first reported in Hong Kong in year 1997. Since 2003, there have been more than 700 human cases of instances of Avian Influenza outbreaks across the globe. There have been cases of bird flu in India since 2005.

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What WHO said:

The declaration is not just important because of the poultry industry standpoint but also because humans can get this disease from the animals. Although the pathogen is not capable of sustained human-to-human transmission. World Health Organization says that Humans can be infected with avian, zoonotic influenza viruses, and swine such as avian influenza virus subtypes A(H591), A(H9N2), A(H9N9)  and swine influenza virus subtypes A(H3N2), A(H1N2), and A(H1N1).

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