It has now been a full week since we first heard of the outbreak of avian flu at New Delhi's Zoological Park, which was subsequently identified as HPAI H5N8. Since then, bird die offs in two other Indian States (Madya Pradesh & Kerala) have been identified as H5N8 as well.
This is the first incursion of H5N8 into India, which was almost certainly carried in by migratory birds, and so the risk of further spread is likely high.
According to media reports, test results from the central lab in Bhopal and the regional one in Jalandhar have been slow in coming (see Bird flu outbreak: Delhi urges central labs to hurry up with test results), and so it is always possible there are already other outbreaks that have not yet been verified.
While the risk of transmission of this virus to humans is believed low, this virus is a close relative to two viruses (H5N1 & H5N6) that have infected humans in the past, and so on Monday we saw the Delhi Govt. Issues Health Advisory On H5N8.
In need of a coordinated response, today the Indian Ministry of Agriculture announced the formation of a committee to monitor H5N8, consisting of representatives from several governmental Ministries and Agencies.
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Agriculture
26-October-2016 15:42 IST
Centre Constitutes Committee for monitoring Bird Flu
The Centre has constituted a Committee headed by Joint Commissioner, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries (DADF) to maintain constant vigil on the situation arising out of avian influenza (H5N8). The Committee will have representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Department of Agriculture Research and Extension (DARE) and representative of the Delhi Government. Besides, monitoring the situation, the Committee will assist the State Government in taking steps to contain the spread of Avian Influenza.
The Centre has also established a control room in DADF. The Control Room can be reached at these telephone numbers : 011-23384190 and 09448324121. Joint Commissioner, Dr. Munialappa has been named as the Nodal Officer and will be available for advice and help round the clock.
The National High Security lab for animal diseases - NIHSAD - the world body OIE recognised facility for disease diagnosis in South Asia and the Four Regional Laboratories, and the Central lab at IVRI have been instructed to give all assistance to the State Governments and get sample tested in an emergency response manner. In fact all 45 samples obtained from Delhi government at the Bhopal lab have been tested within the stipulated 72 hour time frame as per Bio-security level -4 requirements and 13 cases have tested positive for H5N8. Similarly test results have been given for other cases in Kerala, Punjab and MP. As per available reports from other states, the disease incidence is in control.
The Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries Department of the States have issued guidelines for maintaining cleanliness in the zoological parks housing wild birds, water bodies as well as meat / poultry market areas where meat is sold. Necessary precautions for human beings coming in the contact with poultry have also been reinforced although as per WHO observations, the transmission of H5N8 virus is very low. Also there will be no trade impact of the incidence as per global OIE criteria.
All bird sanctuaries and areas where there are lakes have been advised to keep a close watch on the situation and in case of any suspicious death of birds, the State Government and the Centre may be notified. No further test results are presently required by Delhi government to continue with its bio-security measures for implementing the National Action Plan for Control and Containment of the Avian Influenza, 2015 guidelines. Full support of the government of India health department, urban development department, environment department apart from animal husbandry department under the ministry of agriculture & farmers welfare is being provided and there is full communication with the Delhi government on the on-going steps to contain and control the disease incidence.
Daily meetings are being held at the Animal Husbandry Commissioner level in DADF to advise the State Governments in case of emergency.
It may recalled that on 17.10.2016 some birds had died in the Delhi Zoological Park and thereafter birds had died in six other areas. A sample was sent on 17.10.2016 to NIHSAD, and on the same day it was confirmed that the birds had died of H5NH8 virus. A close watch is being maintained and necessary advisories have been issued to all states to keep a vigil on areas frequented by birds both domestic and migratory. Secretary DADF, Shri Devendra Chaudhry is himself keeping close watch and is in constant touch with the chief secretaries of affected states including specially Delhi.