Keranga Village in the Khordha district of Odisha has witnessed an outbreak of H5N1, also known as bird flu. Following a confirmation by the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal, the state government has been notified to take the appropriate steps in order to contain the outbreak of the disease. These include the immediate reduction of birds in poultry farms and culling procedures within a 10 km radius as well as a heightened state wise surveillance.
The samples which were taken from dead chickens and crows have tested positive for the highly infectious H5N1 virus. According to Pradeep Maharathy, the Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Minister, over 1’200 chickens are to be disposed of. Although farmers were initially opposed, they finally agreed to the states demands in exchange for compensation amounting to 115 rupees per chicken (a combination of state and Red Cross funds). Keranga Village is no stranger to outbreaks of bird flu, where in 2012, an estimated 32’000 birds has to be slaughtered. The first recorded outbreak in India occurred in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra in 2006. In January 2008, birds in poultry farms in 11 districts in West Bengal were infected by the H5N1 strain, and the virus occurred again in 2014 in the southern state of Kerala
The discovery in Odisha has sparked panic within the local population as just over two months ago, the Indian Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare issued a press release as well as notifying the WHO as being a nation free from the H5N1 virus.
The disease was first detected in 1996 in China and is caused by the influenza virus where the H5N1 strain is highly infectious and results in severe respiratory issues in birds. Even though this specific strain is poorly adapted to mammals, it is capable of infecting humans as well as many domesticated animals such as cats and pigs. Although the virus has difficulties infecting humans, numerous cases have been observed with high mortality rates of about 60 percent. It is to be noted that a majority of human infections are the result of being in constant and close contact with infected birds. Transmissions from human to human remain extremely rare and cases observed so far have shown no sustained human to human transmission and no community spread of this virus has ever been identified.
The frequent mutation of H5N1, the widespread and increasing industry of poultry as well as a combinations with genetic material from human influenza is considered a major public health issue due to its high pandemic potential.
Five teams are currently on the field in Odisha and the menace is expected to be resolved within five days.