Resurgence of avian flu in India, Philippines

Cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza were recently officially confirmed in India and in the Philippines.

mjbs | Bigstock.com
mjbs | Bigstock.com

Cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) are officially confirmed in the Indian state of Kerala, while local media also report outbreaks in Maharashtra.

In the Philippines, the first ever cases of the H5N1 HPAI virus have been detected in poultry, while additional outbreaks have been reported in Nepal and South Korea. There have been four more human infections in Asia linked to a virus of avian origin.

In southwestern India, an H5N1 strain of the HPAI virus was detected in poultry again for the first time in 14 months. This is according to a retrospective notification to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) posted earlier this week.

All 19 of the confirmed reports were in one of two districts — Alappuzha and Kottayam — in the state of Kerala. Starting in the period November 21 to December 31, all the outbreaks were in free-range duck flocks with between 550 and around 17,300 birds. In total just over 36,000 ducks died out of the around 150,000 directly impacted. This is an overall mortality rate of 24%. 

At the end of November last year, India’s veterinary authority reported to the OIE a single outbreak of HPAI linked to an H5N1 virus serotype in Kerala. At that time, the flock affected comprised almost 19,000 ducks from one village flock in Alappuzha. 

Elsewhere in India, an H5N1 HPAI virus was detected in poultry at a research farm in the eastern Indian state of Bihar one month ago.

HPAI outbreaks have become an almost annual occurrence in poultry in India, reported ZeeBiz last week, with outbreaks throughout the winter until February. 

As mortalities rise among both commercial and backyard producers, stock values of companies such as Venky’s (India) Limited, SKM Eggs Products Export India Limited, and Godrej Agrovet Limited may be hit, according to this source. In contrast, poultry vaccine company Hester Biosciences Limited may receive a boost from the situation, the source suggests, if and when vaccination is adopted to protect birds.

As well as Kerala and Bihar, local media are reporting HPAI outbreaks in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. 

Last week, Economic Times reported that more than 3,000 poultry had died in Thane. This district is on the western coast, and borders Mumbai. 

Around 25,000 poultry have been culled in the Thane and Palghar districts, according to India Today. They were located within 1km of the outbreak, and the aim is to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. 

Philippines reports first H5N1 HPAI cases

For the first time, the H5N1 serotype of the HPAI virus has been detected in the Philippines. 

According to the official notification to the OIE, the first cases were on a duck farm in the province of Bulacan in early January of this year. Source of the infection is unknown. 

Within about a month, three more outbreaks were confirmed. All were among large commercial quail flocks near the towns of Candaba and Mexico in the neighboring province of Pampanga. 

Both Bulacan and Pampanga are located in the Central Luzon region. 

Mortality rates have been high on the affected units, amounting to more than 42,000 or 54% of the 78,280 birds at the four premises. The remaining 36,000 birds have been culled.

To protect the multi-billion-dollar poultry industry in Pampanga, the Philippines News Agency reports that authorities in Pampanga have increased disease control measures. Among these is a ban on live bird or poultry products passing control points set up 1km around each outbreak, without a negative official HPAI test.

Further outbreaks in Nepal

In Nepal, the H5N1 virus was detected again in mid-January following a brief absence. The first eight confirmed outbreaks were all in the Koshi district in the East province. 

The latest official report to the OIE covers four further outbreaks on farms in late January and early February. Affecting a total of almost 12,800 birds, each flock ranged from 65 to almost 8,000 poultry of mixed species.

While one of these premises was located in the East province, the others were in the Kathmandu and Chitwan districts of Bagmati, which is to the north-east of East province.  

Nepal’s 12 outbreaks so far this year have directly impacted around 24,000 poultry through mortality or culling.  

New cases in ducks in South Korea

Over the past week, there have been two further outbreaks of HPAI in South Korea. They bring the nation’s total since early November last year to 45. 

Latest cases were identified at two meat duck farms in South Chungcheong province, according to the country’s agriculture ministry. Presence of the H5N1 virus variant was confirmed among 22,000 birds at Nonsan, and 15,000 at Hadong. 

More than 4.5 million South Korean poultry have been involved in the HPAI outbreaks so far this winter.

China records four new human infections with flu of avian origin

To the World Health Organization four further cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) virus in humans have been confirmed in the Western Pacific Region. These were registered in the period 11-17 February. No further details were given. 

However, on February 15, the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong reported that two men in Mainland China had tested positive for this virus. One patient was in Guangxi province, and one in Jiangsu. Both were reported to be in a critical condition. 

From 2014 to date, Mainland health authorities have reported 67 human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6), according to this source.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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