India has been declared free of Avian Influenza (H5N1).
With effect from September 3, the OIE-World Organisation for Animal Health declared the country free of the virus, the Centre’s Animal Husbandry Department informed the states in a letter. In the last two years, outbreaks of the disease had been reported from several places, including Budhibara, Patharaganja, Malud, Brahmandeo, Kanheipur, Epinga and Nandala in Odisha, Goraho, Mubarakchak and Babura in Bihar and Fazil Khuthari in Jharkhand. All of them had been reported to the OIE and containment measures undertaken as per protocol.
How H5N1 affects humans?
The symptoms of an H5N1 infection in humans include mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough), early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia. It can lead to sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death. The WHO warns that while the current Avian Influenza virus does not easily transmit from person to person, the continued transmission among animals is a serious concern as “these viruses cause severe disease in humans and have the potential to mutate to become more contagious between people”.
“It is pertinent to note that following the completion of the operation (including culling, disinfection and cleanup) at the above epicenters, there has been no further reports of the presence of the HPAI (highly pathogenic Avian Influenza) virus. Accordingly the country has been declared free from Avian Influenza (H5N1) w.e.f 3rd September 2019 which has already been notified by OIE,” Joint Secretary Upamanyu Basu wrote in the letter to the states the same day.
The status will last only till another outbreak is reported. India was last declared free of the disease in 2017.
Avian Influenza was first reported from Hongkong in 1997. Since then, there have been many outbreaks across the world. India too has had multiple outbreaks since 2005.
This declaration is important not just from the poultry industry standpoint, but also because humans can contact the disease from animals though the pathogen is not capable of sustained human-to-human transmission. “Humans can be infected with avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza viruses, such as avian influenza virus subtypes A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2) and swine influenza virus subtypes A(H1N1), A(H1N2) and A(H3N2),” says World Health Organization.