H5N8 expands its reach

Health Ministry issues advisory despite the low risk this bird flu strain poses

November 27, 2016 12:02 am | Updated 01:07 am IST

RAMPING UP: Picture shows a health worker carrying out spraying at the pelican pond at Delhi zoo, in October.

RAMPING UP: Picture shows a health worker carrying out spraying at the pelican pond at Delhi zoo, in October.

India has reported an outbreak of a highly contagious bird flu virus in Karnataka, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Friday, citing a report from the Indian Agriculture Ministry.

The virus, H5N8, spreads through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, their feed, etc. So far there are no reported cases of H5N8 affecting people. The virus is caused by Type “A” influenza and is a subtype of the H5N1 virus. With nearly 50 ducks dying of the virus last month at Delhi zoo, the State government had issued a health advisory asking people to not consume uncooked chicken or eggs.

In the latest case, in Karnataka, the H5N8 virus was confirmed among birds in the village of Itagi, in Hosapete taluk; all 1,593 of the birds at risk from the disease died or were culled, according to the report posted by the OIE.

No details were given on the type of birds or location involved.

The H5N8 bird flu strain has been found in several countries in Europe and West Asia in recent weeks, leading some states to order poultry flocks to be kept indoors.

The same virus had previously affected livestock in Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.

Precautionary steps

Earlier this week, Minister of State for Health Faggan Singh Kulaste had informed the Rajya Sabha that poultry birds in Bellary, Karnataka, had tested positive for H5N8.

“Based on current knowledge, the public health risk to human population is considered low for avian influenza subtype H5N8,” he said.

Mr. Kulaste added that as a matter of caution, the Union Health Ministry has issued an advisory to the States and Union Territories to minimise bird-human interface, ensure that those handling sick or dead birds use personal protective equipment, and also keep them under surveillance.

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