The deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus is back, with the Centre confirming that the virus causing the current outbreak in chicken in Imphal is the same as the one that created havoc in Maharashtra last year.
"The National Institute of Virology in Pune has confirmed that the bird flu strain that has struck poultry in Manipur is the deadly H5N1 strain, the same strain that caused the Maharashtra outbreak in 2006," confirmed Dr Shiv Lal, director, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi. The H5N1 strain was confirmed in the districts of Navapur and Jalgaon in Maharashtra and adjoining areas in Gujarat last year.
To stamp out the highly infectious strain and contain the disease, the government ordered the culling of over one million birds and over 15 lakh eggs in a 10 km radius of the infected farms. India was declared free of bird flu in August 2006.
This year, the virus is back in poultry in Manipur, most likely from neighbouring Myanmar, China or Bangladesh where bird flu has been reported. The current outbreak has been confirmed in a small poultry holding in Cingmeirong village in the Imphal east district of Manipur, where 132 chickens suddenly died within six days from July 7.
India has banned poultry trade with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar but people continue to smuggle poultry across the borders. "It is a difficult and very porous border, but we have measures in place," said Upma Chawdhry, Joint Secretary of the Animal Husbandry Department.
Containment measures have begun and monitoring of sudden death in poultry and symptoms of fever in humans began in a 10 km radius on Wednesday. "Twenty-one people living in a cluster of three houses and nine veterinary staff have been given oseltamivir (Tamiflu) as a preventive and are being closely watched for signs of fever. All are healthy," said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, ministry of health. He said the country had ample oseltamivir in stock.