New Delhi: Avian Influenza (AI) viruses have been circulating worldwide for centuries with four known major outbreaks recorded in the last century. India notified the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. Infection in humans is not yet reported in India though the disease is zoonotic. There is no direct evidence that AI viruses can be transmitted to humans via the consumption of contaminated poultry products. Implementing management practices that incorporate bio security principles, personal hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection protocols, as well as cooking and processing standards, are effective means of controlling the spread of the AI viruses.
In India, the disease spreads mainly by migratory birds coming into India during winter months i.e. from September – October to February – March. The secondary spread by human handling (through fomites) cannot be ruled out.
In view of a threat of global outbreak of AI, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD), Government of India had prepared an action plan in 2005 which was revised in 2006, 2012 , 2015 and 2021 for guidance of State Government for prevention, control and containment of Avian Influenza in the Country (refer DAHD website https://dahd.nic.in/sites/default/filess/Action%20Plan%20-%20as%20on23.3.15.docx-final.pdf10.pdf).
Following post operation surveillance plan (POSP) after completion of Avian Influenza outbreak control in 2020 and containment operation at different epicenters, the country freedom from AI was declared w.e.f. 30thSeptember 2020.
In view of the past experience regarding the reports of the disease in winter season, periodic advisories have been issued to all states/UTs before commencement of winter for keeping necessary vigil, enhancing surveillance, keeping strategic reserves of supplies (PPE kits, etc.), preparedness to handle eventualities and IEC for public awareness. Other support provided by the Department to the States/UTs include
- Technical support from referral lab i.e. ICAR-NIHSAD, Bhopal
- Funding support to States/UTs to undertake culling and compensation
- Funding to states under ASCAD scheme
- Training of veterinary work force
- Support for strengthening RDDLs / CDDL
The last preparatory advisory / communication was issued to all States/UTs on 22.10.2020.
After confirmation of positive samples from ICAR-NIHSAD, AI has been reported from the following States (at 12 epicentres) –
- Rajasthan(crow) – Baran, Kota, Jhalawar
- Madhya Pradesh(crow) – Mandsaur, Indore, Malwa
- Himachal Pradesh (migratory birds) – Kangra
- Kerala (poultry-duck) – Kottayam, Allapuzha (4 epicentres)
Accordingly, an advisory has been issued each to the States of Rajasthan and MP on 1st January 2021, so as to avoid further spread of the infection. As per the information received from State of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan control measures is being taken as per the guidelines of National Action Plan of Avian Influenza. Another advisory has been issued on 5th January, 2021 to HP where the State has been advised to take measures so as to avoid further spread of disease to poultry. As per the report received, Kerala has already initiated control and containment operations from 05.01.20121 at epicentres and culling process is in operation.
Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Government of India has also set up a control room in New Delhi to keep watch on the situation and to take stock on daily basis of preventive and control measures undertaken by State authorities.
The measures suggested to the affected States to contain the disease and prevent further spread as per the Action Plan on Avian Influenza include strengthening the biosecurity of poultry farms, disinfection of affected areas, proper disposal of dead birds/carcasses, timely collection and submission of samples for confirmation and further surveillance, intensification of surveillance plan as well as the general guidelines for prevention of disease spread from affected birds to poultry and human. Coordination with forest department for reporting any unusual mortality of birds was also suggested to the States. The other states were also requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures.