Assam on high alert
This time it is Assam. Nearly 200 birds have been culled in Agomoni, Pokalagi, Jhapsabari, Kherbari, Supaikuti and Bhamundanga under Golokganj police station of Dhubri district, in September alone.
The scare came to light when one of 300 specimens of dead birds, sent to Bhopal for a test, was confirmed with bird flu. The district administration swung into action and issued a ban on the sale of the birds in the market and an awareness campaign was launched.
An official source in Dhubri veterinary department said sale of birds was banned in the periphery of 3 km area from the affected villages. Officials in the veterinary department have sounded an alert and sent a collection of bird samples for examination to the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory after bird flu spread in the Agomoni area in which nearly 300 birds died last week. Officials of the veterinary department said they had a target of culling 30,000 birds in 14 villages.
FAO warned in August that bird flu or Avian Influenza will rear its head again and that countries like India will have to take extra precautions.
FAO urged heightened readiness and surveillance against a possible major resurgence of the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza amid signs that a mutant strain of the deadly Bird Flu virus is spreading in Asia and beyond, with unpredictable risks to human health.
The H5N1 virus has infected 565 people since it first appeared in 2003, killing 331 of them, according to WHO figures. The latest death occurred earlier in August in Cambodia, which has registered eight cases of human infection this year -- all of them fatal.
However, the virus remained endemic in six nations, although the number of outbreaks in domestic poultry and wild bird populations shrank steadily from an annual peak of 4000 to just 302 in mid 2008. But outbreaks have risen progressively since, with almost 800 cases recorded in 2010-2011.
2008 marked the beginning of renewed geographic expansion of the H5N1 virus both in poultry and wild birds. The advance appears to be associated with migratory bird movements, according to FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth.
He said migrations help the virus travel over long distances, so that H5N1 has in the past 24 months shown up in poultry or wild birds in countries that had been virus-free for several years.
Recently affected areas are to be found in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Bulgaria, Romania, Nepal and Mongolia.
A further cause for concern, Lubroth said, is the appearance in China and Viet Nam of a variant virus apparently able to sidestep the defenses provided by existing vaccines.
In Viet Nam, which suspended its springtime poultry vaccination campaign this year, most of the northern and central parts of the country -- where H5N1 is endemic -- have been invaded by the new virus strain, known as H5N1 - 188.8.131.52.
Lubroth has warned that countries where H5N1 is still firmly entrenched – Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam – are likely to face the biggest problems but no country can consider itself safe.