How serious is this bird flu outbreak?
The bird flu outbreak became a worry in the first week of January after many states started reporting unusual deaths of a large number of birds — wild, migratory and also poultry. The samples were tested and found to be a case of infection caused by Influenza Type-A virus, primarily H5N1, which is considered a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) variant.
Other strains such as H7N1, H8N1 or H5N8 also cause bird flu and belong to the same HPAI category. While bird flu outbreak in Himachal Pradesh has been caused by H5N1, the samples from Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have shown the presence of H5N8 variant.
South Korea said it has now culled 13.6 million birds as a preventive measure as the case count for H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza has reached 46. The culls include 10.2 million chickens, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
A record 5.8 million chickens have been culled in Japan this season due to bird flu. Since last November, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu virus has been detected on 36 poultry farms in 15 prefectures, moving from western Japan, including Kagawa and Miyazaki prefectures, to central and eastern Japan, including Gifu and Chiba prefectures. The previous record was set in the 2005-2006 bird-flu season when 5.78 million chickens infected with a less pathogenic strain of bird flu virus were culled in Ibaraki and Saitama prefectures. This season's number is expected to reach about 6 million when the ongoing cull is completed. NHK World
Meanwhile, China’s General Administration of Customs said that the country has stopped imports of poultry from France due to H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza, with the halt effective from 5 January. This comes after the French farm ministry Tuesday said it would cull 600,000 birds due to bird flu — 200,000 have already been culled with plans to cull another 400,000 birds. The country confirmed 61 outbreaks as of 1 January, with 48 in the Landes region alone, a key duck breeding area that supplies the foie gras industry.
India has now started the cull of poultry in the country, planning to cull at least 36,000 birds after both domestic and wild birds have died from bird flu. The country found its first case of the H5N8 bird flu one week ago, with the government now issuing a “high alert” and is calling on states to take “urgent measures” to prevent the spread.
On Jan 18, a total of 1,290 poultry birds were found dead in Maharashtra. Deaths of 76 other birds like herons, sparrows, parrots, etc. have been reported. Total 93 crows have been found dead in the state. In Maharashtra, a total of 1,459 birds died on Jan 18. The samples are being sent to National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal and Disease Investigation Section, Pune for testing. A total of 8,273 deaths of various birds have been recorded till the date since Jan 8. It is observed on Jan 19, a total of 4,351 poultry birds have been found dead in Maharashtra and mainly mortality of 3,700 Poultry birds at Sawargad. District Yawatmal. The Free Press
Meantime, Hungary will cull 100,000 turkeys in northwest areas of the country after bird flu was confirmed there on Wednesday 6 January. The H5N8 strain of bird flu is spreading rapidly across Europe and Asia.