India has one of the highest incidence of bird-flu outbreaks globally because it lies underneath three transnational flight paths of migratory birds, officials have said, adding the current episode poses low risks to humans.
Amur falcons take off from Nagaland, racing southwards and flying over three oceans to South Africa and onwards to Mongolia. The feathered frequent flier clocks 22,000km, outstripping the air distance between Delhi and San Francisco, the world’s longest commercial flight way, by nearly 8000 km.
Nearly 370 species of birds, from the northern wheatear to yellow-rumped flycatcher – crisscross India from Europe, Russia and Mongolia each year, according to the Bombay Natural History Society.
This brings joy to wildlife enthusiasts, but also makes the country vulnerable to bird flu, which has occurred 24 times across states since the first outbreak 2004. Government records show nearly Rs 400 crore have been paid to poultry farmers since as compensation for mass killing of birds.
Apart from Delhi, outbreaks have now been reported in three more states – Kerala, Punjab and MP – although a national status report said the disease isn’t spreading any more. All cases have been determined to be of the H5N8 type.
“H5N8 type is highly pathogenic but it isn’t known to transmit to humans,” a government official said, citing a World Health Organization (WHO) update on India.
So, it’s a low-risk category outbreak, he said.
A grey partridge was confirmed to have died of the disease at New Delhi’s National Zoological Park in the past 24 hours, but officials said there appeared to be no need for mass culling.
An official statement said no further test results are required for Delhi government but it will continue with its bio-security measures for implementing the National Action Plan for Control and Containment of the Avian Influenza 2015 guidelines.
The agriculture ministry on Wednesday said the Bhopal-based National Institute for High Security Animal Diseases, which functions in coordination with the World Organisation for Animal Health, along with four specialised regional labs is coordinating efforts to contain the outbreak.
The government hasn’t banned poultry for human consumption, he said, adding the advisory is to consume only fully cooked meat and eggs. All bird sanctuaries with lakes have been advised to keep a close watch.