Uttar Pradesh – Credit Wikipedia
With the caveat that media reports out of India are sometimes suspect, and are often tinged with less-than-veiled jabs at the local bureaucracy, we’ve a report today of a suspected outbreak of `bird flu’ (subtype not provided, but probably HPAI H5) in a town called Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where poultry reportedly began dying en masse two weeks ago.
According to this report, animals (dogs and crows) which consumed dead poultry have also died.
Culling teams have reportedly been dispatched to the region. First a link, and some excerpts from the story, then I’ll be back with a bit more on India’s history of bird flu.
Mar 15, 4:27 pm
Amethi (Uttar Pradesh) Mar. 15 (ANI): The threat of a bird flu outbreak looms large on Amethi as birds have been dying mysteriously in the district for almost two weeks now.
A team of the district veterinary department was dispatched to the village after a frantic call from a villager who collected samples from various villages which were then sent to Bhopal. The samples tested positive for bird flu.
However, District Veterinary Officer, Doctor Vinod Kumar, refused to come clean on the findings of the reports.
"We received a call informing us that birds were dying in a village after which a team was rushed to the spot which found out that birds were actually dying, said Kumar, while adding "this matter is somewhat confidential" when asked about inquiry report.
In addition to having infected more than 20 mammalian species, the H5N1 virus has been detected in more than 150 different types of wild birds (See USGS List of Species Affected by H5N1 (Avian Influenza)).
Waterfowl (ducks & geese) and gallinaceous birds (turkeys, grouse, chickens & quail) are most often associated with carriage of the H5N1 virus, but terrestrial birds such as crows, starlings, pigeons, and sparrows are also known to carry, and shed, the virus as well (see 2007’s EID Journal Role of Terrestrial Wild Birds in Ecology of Influenza A Virus (H5N1).
As far back as 2008, we saw reports out of India of crows dying from the H5N1 virus. A little over three years ago India was again plagued with numerous wild bird die offs that were blamed on the avian flu virus (see Media Report: H5N1 Killing Crows In Jharkhand), a phenomenon that was reported again in 2014 (see OIE: H5N1 Detected In Crows Again – India).
Similarly, we’ve seen reports from the field, and scientific studies (see Study: Dogs And H5N1) with warnings that `dogs are highly susceptible to H5N1 AIV and may serve as an intermediate host to transfer this virus to humans’.
Interestingly, in A Dog & Cat Flu Review, we saw another study suggesting that dogs were less likely to display signs of illness with H5N1 than cats, although this could be a clade-specific finding. Dogs have also been found to be susceptible to (apparently asymptomatic) infection with the recently emerged H5N8 virus (see MAFRA: H5N8 Antibodies Detected In South Korean Dogs (Again)).
Last fall we saw outbreaks of H5N1 in India’s southern Kerala state and northern Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake region. While H5N1 outbreaks occur nearly every winter in India, so far they have never reported human infections.
Whether this is due to the clade of the virus circulating in India, the use of antivirals by cullers, less-than-comprehensive surveillance/testing & and reporting, or some other factor is unknown.
The concern is that after a decade where the H5N1 threat appeared to be slowly waning, it is back with a vengeance, and this time it has an entourage of promiscuous and unpredictable HPAI H5 friends. So much so that a little over two weeks ago, the World Health Organization issued a warning: WHO: H5 Currently The Most Obvious Avian Flu Threat.
So we watch outbreaks, such as this one in India, for any signs that the virus is changing.