Current Affairs Brain Booster for UPSC & State PCS Examination
Topic: Bird Flue Threat in India
Why in News?
- During the first week of January, reports of unusual deaths of a large
number of birds, including wild ones, started coming in from many States,
indicating that cases of bird avian influenza or bird flu is being actively
transmitted among various bird groups.
Bird Flu: Background
- Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease affecting a variety of birds.
- The first recorded bird flu outbreak among humans was in 1996-97 in Hong Kong and China. The mortality rate has been high, however, in all human outbreaks. Six of 18 cases in Hong Kong had led to death.
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) data, 862 cases of bird flu among humans have been recorded in 17 countries since 2003. Of these, 455 persons died.
- The last instance of human case bird flu infection was reported from China in October 2020. The patient was a three-year-old girl, who displayed mild flu-like symptoms.
Bird Flu Outbreak in India
- It was 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.
- Wild birds are considered the natural reservoirs of the bird flu viruses and it is typical of an outbreak to coincide with the season of arrival of migratory birds, which also take the virus to poultry.
Cases in Other Countries
- According to the early warning system of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), bird flu outbreaks were reported in several countries including Taiwan and Japan to a number of European countries and more than 48 lakh birds died or were culled in December 2020.
- In India, the Centre has asked state governments to follow the National Action Plan for Prevention, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza 2021.
- State governments have started culling the birds in affected areas. For example, Kerala has planned to cull around 70,000 birds in the worst-affected Alappuzha district.
WHO on Bird Flu
- According to World Health Organisation (WHO), human cases of bird flu occur “occasionally” but when it happens, the mortality rate is about 60 per cent. This is often seen with diseases caused by pathogens new or unknown to human bodies.
- The human-to-human transmission is “difficult”, according to the WHO, which, however, says there is a possibility of the H5N1 mutating and posing a pandemic threat among humans.
Economic Impact of Bird Flu
- Every month, India consumes around 30 crore eggs and 900 crore chickens sourced from poultry farms. The poultry sector of India is worth Rs 80,000 crore, of which more than three-fourths is from the organised sector.
- Around 3 crore farmers are engaged in the unorganised sector of poultry engaging in backyard bird-keeping and supplying products to aggregators.
- India exports processed poultry products such as egg powder, yolk powder, chicken products and also pharmaceutical ingredients from the poultry sector worth hundreds of crores every year.
- The government had paid over Rs 26 crore to farmers between 2006 and 2018 on account of culling to contain spread of bird flu in India.
- India has adopted a practice of building bio safety bubble around poultry farms to mitigate the chances of wild birds coming in close contact with reared birds.
- About the safety concerns over eating eggs and chickens, scientists say it is safe to consume poultry products that are properly cooked at over 60-70 degree Celsius. Any temperature above this kills viruses.