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Bird Flu takes a devastating stature as we sit on the brim of battling coronavirus

We fought a pretty tough battle with 2020 and our journey with 2021 has begun. We may not be sure of good things happening this year, but we sure are trying. However, looks like viruses and touches of flu aren’t leaving our backs this easy. Half a month in January and we’re dealing with the outbreak of the Avian Influenza, also referred to as the Bird flu. This highly contagious viral disease finds its way back to the country’s birds almost every year. However, there’s something unusual about it this time. It has affected more than thousands of birds in the first week of its outbreak and has resulted in an unusual number of deaths since.

The dead birds belong to species varying from poultry birds to migratory birds and some usual scavengers. Ever since the outbreak of the Avian Influenza has happened, a large number of bird deaths have been recorded in various parts of the country, including Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. Migratory birds are believed to have been the cause of the flu that has taken over numerous states of the country. Over the past few days, more than 40,000 chickens in Haryana have died of the flu. A similar case of 3 crows dying in Kerala had also been reported, however the cause is still to be figured.

The authorities, trying to contain the spread of the influenza, issued advisories and urged states to keep a close look and devise strategic plans to curb the spread of flu. The government has also set up a control room in the national capital to keep a close vigil on the situation even though no case among humans has been reported so far. The union health ministry also deployed special teams to Panchkula and Kerala. On an individual level, states also came forward with measures to contain the spread of the virus. Kerala declared bird flu a state disaster and positioned rapid response teams for culling and surveillance claims. Culling operations have been completed in the affected areas and post-surveillance guideline programs have been issued. Madhya Pradesh banned the state-wise transportation of poultry as a measure of curbing the spread of the flue from one state to another. Himachal Pradesh also banned the sale and delivery of poultry products and fish in certain districts.

Reports issued by experts determined that the current outbreak of Avian Influenza in the country is caused by the H5N8 strain. Like the current pandemic, many countries are also in this together even during the bird flu, even though the strains of flu circulating globally are not particularly the same as each other. Evidently, it is supposed that wild migratory birds have carried the flu to various countries, with Europe dealing with a series of bird flu outbreaks. Along with H5N8, H5N1 has been in talks in the country owing to their probable presence and high pathogenicity i.e. their ability to cause the disease is fairly high. However, none of the two is likely to affect humans.

Even though most bird flus do not affect humans, the disease can be transmitted through infected bird faeces, nasal, eye or mouth secretions.  Thus, Centre has issued strict guidelines for the state to be vigilant with their strategies to curb the transfer of disease in humans. It is to be noted that the consumption of poultry is safe once wholly cooked or boiled.

With both neighbours Haryana and Uttar Pradesh dealing with the outbreak of flu in their respective states, the national capital was definitely at more risk than any other state. To add, Delhi witnessed the death of almost 35 crows and 10 ducks in the past few days. To stop the spread of the disease and vigilantly making sure it doesn’t get to the humans, Delhi government declared a ban on the import of live birds and has since closed the state’s largest poultry market at Ghazipur. A helpline number was also established to ensure 24 hours assistance of the people.

However, recent statements issued by Delhi authorities claimed that none out of the 100 samples taken from Asia’s largest poultry market in Ghazipur of Delhi has tested positive for the flu. This implies there has been no spread of the bird flu among children in Delhi, as mentioned in a statement by the Head of Animal Husbandry unit. These results came in after the state authorities imposed temporary ban on the market, which has now lifted in view of the negative samples implying no presence of flue in Delhi’s poultry.

The Chief Minister, in his tweet said, “Samples taken from the poultry market have tested negative with respect to the bird flu. Have directed to open the poultry market and withdraw the orders to restrict trade and import of chicken stocks.” The Ghazipur market is a crucial supplier of poultry products including chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys, that has its supply chains spread to numerous districts around Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. The decision to lift the ban might be a hasty decision for now considering the flu has very high transmissibility and pathogenicity, which of not a threat in Delhi today, could become a big threat in Delhi tomorrow. Hence, it is crucial that the government doesn’t hastens into decisions concerning the safety of its poultry and thus, people. Nevertheless, along with Delhi, there are many other states that have adopted various policies to fight the spread of virus and put a full stop on its further transmission, not just in their state but in other states too.

We can only hope that the country and the world come out of the outbreak of Avian Influenza as soon as possible. It is imperative for people to take care of their security too by adopting a set of precautions including avoiding consumption of meat for some time and proper checks by the government resources if they pet poultry or any other birds. We’ve almost fought a world pandemic and are there with one foot outside the finish line, we can work a little more and get over this new outbreak soon too.

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