India on Saturday declared itself a "bird-flu free country" based on the report of the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL). The report has been sent to the France-based international agency OIE (Office des Internationale Epijotis) for formal international acceptance of India's status.
The bad news: the strain of flu that erupted in the country has been found to be capable of infecting humans.
HSADL joint director Dr HK Pradhan said the laboratory did not diagnose even a single positive case of the flu since April 18 (the last outbreak was reported on April 17 at Jalgaon in Maharashtra). The OIE requires a free post-outbreak period of three months but the laboratory continued testing for five months to be doubly sure. Based on the results, the Union Heath Ministry declared India a bird flu free country.
Dr Pradhan gave credit to strong preventive and curative measures of the state and Union governments.
Moreover, after detailed genetic analysis on a number of H5N1 virus (bird flu) samples collected from areas of the recent outbreak, HSADL confirmed that the PB2 gene of the isolates of the virus contained the compound `lysine'— a sure indication that the virus has the capability to infect mammals including humans. Lysine was found in the nucleic acid residue of the virus isolates, Pradhan said.
Instant and widespread culling of the poultry and destruction of poultry products, disinfection of the affected areas and administration of the Tamiflu drug to farm workers and other persons helped in preventing the disease from being transmitted to human beings, Pradhan said. Among the 60 countries in world hit by bird flu, human infection was reported from only 10, resulting in death of 138 persons as on August 10.
Although the virus is reported to transmit from only birds to human, a suspected incident of human-to-human transmission was reported from Indonesia where at least five members of a family were killed by the disease.
The bird flu outbreak in Navapur, Jalgaon (Maharashtra), Uchhal (Gujarat) and Burhanpur (MP) between February and April 2006 resulted in the death of several thousand birds.
The country suffered loss estimated at Rs 700 crore with 1.043 million birds culled, 1.475 millions eggs and several thousands tons of feed destroyed.