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India Caught Off Guard As Bird Flu Wreaks Havoc

by Vrinda Jain
India Caught Off Guard As Bird Flu Wreaks Havoc

January 9, 2021

India is having another contagious outbreak. Fortunately, it is not as dangerous as COVID-19.

We have witnessed the emergence and outbreaks of several diseases since the beginning of the 21st century. Over the years, conditions, spatial distribution, and pathogens have increased due to human activity. Our nation is currently weighed down by the burden of new pathogens emerging every once in a while. Among the pool of new diseases, India now sees an outbreak of Bird Flu, which has massively affected various states.

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A worker sprays disinfectant in view of bird flu in a poultry farm in Bhopal (PTI)

Bird Flu Outbreak in India

Recently, in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Haryana, who are already battling their most challenging war against the novel coronavirus pandemic, are now also facing the storm of Bird Flu. It is suspected that the virus entered India through migratory birds and spread across poultry birds and local species.

Kerala’s government declared bird flu as a state-specific catastrophe and issued high warnings in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts. According to reports, a total of 1,700 ducks died on a farm in the Kottayam district. In several states, following the sudden death of birds in large numbers, the Centre has also issued a bird flu warning, stating that samples need to be collected from areas where bird flu cases are present.

The government has asked states to improve poultry farms’ biosecurity, disinfect the affected regions, and safely dispose of dead birds and carcasses, contain the outbreak and avoid further propagation. The Ministry of Animal Husbandry also requested that states collect and send samples promptly for confirmation and further inspection and surveillance plan.

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Health workers in protective suits prepare to set fire after culling ducks following the detection of H5N8 strain of bird flu among domestic birds in Alappuzha district, Kerala. Karnataka has put four bordering districts on high alert.(AP)

40,000 Birds Set To Be Killed

Kerala’s government officials are preparing to kill almost 40,000 birds to avoid the spread of the virus. With this, the use and trade of beef, duck eggs, and chicken has been prohibited in Alappuzha and nearby districts. The Animal Husbandry Department, Tamil Nadu, has given a high warning in the border districts following the Kerala outbreak of bird flu.

A team of a cattle inspector, a veterinarian, an attendant, and two spray disinfectant assistants will be stationed at various checkpoints. The team will also verify the entry of chickens and ducks into the vehicles. Along with Tamil Nadu, other states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh have also put a high alert in the wake of the bird flu.

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Health workers in protective suits cull ducks in Karuvatta in Kerala on Jan. 6. Photographer: Arunchandra Bose/AFP/Getty Images

Nationwide Alert

In Madhya Pradesh, the pathogen was first identified in Indore a week ago. The officials have reported 155 dead crows and found the H5N8 (bird flu) strain in them. A study is also being carried out in the city to check people with cold, cough, and fever symptoms. Till now, no case of the H5N8 infection has been detected in humans. In Rajasthan, infected birds were found in Kota and Baran after Jhalwar. Till now, 625 birds have died in 16 different districts of the state.

In Haryana, nearly four lakh poultry birds have been killed in the past ten days on farms in the Panchkula district. While in Himachal Pradesh, 27,000 migratory birds were found dead in Pong Dam Lake in Kangra district, mainly bar-headed geese. In Haryana, nearly four lakh poultry birds have died in the past ten days on farms in the Panchkula district.

The reason why the bird flu has been spreading like a wildfire is because ethe strain of the virus H5N8 is highly contagious. According to United Kingdom National Health Service, there are no cases of bird flu recorded in the UK.

The Animal Husbandry Ministry has urged states to follow the general prevention guidelines to avoid diseases from affected birds to poultry and humans. In New Delhi, a control room has also been set up to keep an eye on the situation and keep track of preventive and control steps taken by state authorities regularly.

Can Bird Flu be treated?

The bird flu in birds generally affects their guts, but the flu attacks the humans’ respiratory tract. This is prone to severe respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Fever, cough, sore throat, and occasionally stomach pain and diarrhea are among the early bird flu symptoms in humans. According to the Union Health Ministry, antiviral medicines, particularly Oseltamivir, increase humans’ chances of survival.

The World Organization for Animal Health’s Vaccination methods can be used to avoid influenza in poultry birds. The Organisation advises eradicating highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at its source, eliminating avian disease and human infections.

Ever since the Coronavirus Pandemic came to light, scientists have been trying to make people aware of the zoonotic diseases. An alarming rise in the number, frequency, and diversity of zoonotic disease outbreaks has occurred over the last century. These events may have tripled in the previous decade. Let’s find out what zoonotic diseases are and how does it affect you.

What are Zoonotic Diseases?

Zoonotic diseases are defined as diseases caused by animals developing infectious diseases, either by zoonotic vectors or naturally. The freshly evolved infections, particularly in the Zoonotic diseases, may have occurred in developed countries in the past and are now increasingly spreading to new geographic, host, or vector ranges.

The main reasons why these diseases are increasingly spreading now can be explained in three parts:

Environmental Damage: Thanks to the massive deforestation, habitat loss, and wildlife destruction, animal diseases have started to spread in humans. Ebola, West Nile virus, Zika Virus, and Rift Valley virus are diseases transmitted from wildlife and humans.

Cultural Practices: Novel pathogens are transmitted to humans by consuming exotic animals, often raw. SARS and Covid-19 both have their roots in China’s wildlife markets. But the tradition of consuming wild animals is not confined to China; it occurs across the globe in one form or another.

Extensive Animal Farming: The industrial agriculture of livestock and holding animals very close to one another and synthetic chemicals such as antibiotics is another reason. Both bird flu and swine flu emerge from intensive poultry farms.

Zoonotic diseases in India

Zoonotic diseases have been growing globally as well as in India. Other factors like import and export of animals, livestock farming, pathogen adaptation, political and poverty conflicts, and urban expansion are significant reasons for the spread of Zoonotic diseases in India. Out of 1407 human pathogens, at least 816 are zoonotic pathogens.

Markets that sell meat or by-products of wild animals are at high risk due to many new or undocumented pathogens known to exist in some wild animal populations. Agricultural workers also see an increased risk of pathogens resistant to existing antimicrobial drugs in areas with high use of antibiotics for farm animals.

There is a chance of disease from animals such as rodents, foxes, or raccoons for people living close to wilderness areas or in semi-urban neighborhoods with more significant numbers of wild animals. Urbanization and the degradation of natural ecosystems, through increased interaction between humans and wild animals, increase the risk of zoonotic diseases.

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