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Indian bird flu made in China

Animal husbandry commissioner SK Bandhopadhyay said blaming the outbreak on just migratory birds would mean ruling out other sources.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 19:03 IST

Till a couple of months ago, it was the most asked question: who brought bird flu to India and from where? The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) is ready with the answer and many more interesting revelations.

Scientists at the Bhopal lab say migratory birds carried the deadly virus from China — via Europe and West Asia. After detailed research for two-and-a-half months, they found the origin and source of the virus and the method of its introduction into India.

A study of the gene sequences (HA1 and HA2) of the virus, isolated from the Navapur and Jalgaon outbreaks, concluded that the viruses originated from Qinghai (central China) and Jiangxi (south China).

HSADL joint director in charge HK Pradhan says the findings shatter a common belief: that the outbreaks at Navapur and Jalgaon (140 km apart) in Maharashtra were related.

He says the genetic analysis revealed that the viruses from Navapur and Jalgaon were not identical (they showed 3.5 per cent divergence). This points to the fact that the two outbreaks were independent of each other and were caused by different sources.

Study is on to identify the other country, says Pradhan.

Another interesting finding. Jalgaon was the first to be hit and not Navapur -- as widely believed.

Though the outbreak at Jalgaon was reported 12 days after Navapur (February 18), its virus had evolved earlier, says Pradhan. Since the Jalgaon outbreak was in backyard poultry (involving scattered deaths), it was reported later than the Navapur outbreak in which a large number of birds in organised poultry farms died.

That was also the reason why it took more time in Jalgaon to control the disease, as it had spread far and wide.

Pradhan says probably the Navapur virus was responsible for the outbreak in Uchhal in Gujarat, and the Jalgaon virus for the Burhanpur outbreak in Madhya Pradesh. Scientists are working on this theory. For now, the lab says bird flu -- that led to culling of millions of poultry birds and a scare -- has been tamed in the country. It has not detected any fresh positive cases in the last two months.

Animal husbandry secretary HMA Hakeem on Monday said he was yet to get the details of the lab's findings."

I don't know about it. As far as I know, the department of animal husbandry hasn't been informed," he said.

Animal husbandry commissioner SK Bandhopadhyay said blaming the outbreak on just migratory birds would mean ruling out other sources.

"Other options such like smuggled infected birds, contaminated feed and bird products cannot be ruled out. For example, in Africa, the FAO has ruled out migratory birds as a source of infection and are examining other sources," he said.