Summer heat to kill bird flu virus

However, experts warn that India needs to be prepared as infection may surface in the winter again.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 17:41 IST

The dreaded bird flu that has recently hit poultry in Maharashtra and Gujarat is expected to die with advancing summer, but the country needs to be prepared as infection may surface in the winter again, experts said on Monday.

"It will die in our country as summer peaks," Dr Randeep Guleria from the AIIMS' Department of Medicine told reporters at the end of a two-day meeting of the Asia-Pacific Advisory Committee on Influenza (APACI).

But it may come back again during the winter as the disease spreads through migratory birds and "you cannot stop migratory birds from coming to India," he said.

Guleria speculated that the current outbreak may have been triggered by migratory birds, "but to confirm it, an epidemiological study and surveillance are needed."

The virus may have come to Western India through Europe, he said.

It looks possible from the fact that H5N1, which initially was reported in South-East Asian countries, has now been found in countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, France, Turkey and Nigeria, he said.

Thus, the probable route may have been East to West and then to South towards Western India, he said.

Had the virus come from South-East Asia, regions in North-East India should have been affected first, but no outbreak has been reported there, he said.

"The H5N1 virus had initially spread among countries due to commercial movement of poultry, but now we believe it is through migratory birds," Dr Jane Jennings, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Advisory Committee on Influenza (APACI) said.

As far as the cause of outbreak in India is concerned, it would become clear after epidemiological studies are carried out, he said.

Jennings said resistance to Tamiflu, the drug being used to treat human cases of bird flu, was not an issue currently as whatever evidence of resistance had emerged was not "clinically relevant".

Besides, it was also an issue of treatment protocol not being followed as the drug needs to be given within 48 hours of appearance of the symptoms, he said talking about a Japanese study which had shown that H5N1 was becoming resistant to Tamiflu.

Experts recommended the drug should be given fast even before the results of tests done to confirm H5N1 become available.

Tamilflu could be given on the basis of clinical symptoms and patient's history if there was any contact with infected poultry.

The drug was effective for bird flu, he said.

The first documented case of H5N1 infection in humans occurred in 1997 in Hong Kong with 18 confirmed cases and six deaths.

The outbreak was contained with the slaughter of 1.5 million chickens at the end of 1997.

Human cases of H5N1 have been reported in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Turkey and Iraq, resulting in 91 deaths in 169 cases.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 00:54 IST