Not airy-fairy at all | india | Hindustan Times
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Not airy-fairy at all

The renewed alarm that the H5N1 avian flu virus had mutated to a human one has been diffused by the WHO, which has said that the 14 cases of avian flu reported in Turkey in the last week weren?t through human transmission.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 02:15 IST
PTI

The renewed alarm that the H5N1 avian flu virus had mutated to a human one has been diffused by the WHO, which has said that the 14 cases of avian flu reported in Turkey in the last week weren’t through human transmission. All cases so far reported in Turkey have been through interaction with infected ducks. It is clear, however, that the virus is spreading and scientists expect it to jump species any time. Once, and if, it mutates into a human virus, it will be almost impossible to contain its spread.

Wild migratory fowl usually act as reservoirs for the germ before it passes on to ducks, which in turn spread it among domestic poultry. India is a favourite wintering place for scores of waterfowl species. Besides, India’s sizeable population of domestic ducks makes the country one of the potentially largest endemic areas of avian flu. India can’t afford to let its vigil down. Unfortunately, current levels of preparedness seem to be theoretical. There is, for instance, a degree of ignorance about the country’s wild birds, and no comprehensive map of its wetlands that would help in establishing the species mix of these water-bodies.

While the authorities may have done well to augment outbreak preparedness like strengthening hospital networks and stockpiling drugs, the first line of defence is still early detection. And for this, the government should draw up a geo-spatial database on the poultry around crucial wetlands that attract water birds so that emerging threats can be detected in time.