From India comes confirmation of many outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry that occurred earlier this year. Confirmed in nine states and territories across the country, two different virus variants were detected in the first four months of 2021.
Over the past month, India’s veterinary authorities have retrospectively reported many HPAI outbreaks in poultry to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). All these cases were detected in poultry in nine states between the start of 2021 and April.
Starting in the south-west of the country, there has been one new outbreak linked to the H5N8 virus variant in Kerala. Affected was a backyard flock comprising more than 20,000 birds. According to the report, there have been seven outbreaks in the state since November of 2020, directly impacting around 104,500 birds. It is noted that the virus was detected in ducks.
Further north in western India is the state of Maharashtra, where the H5N1 HPAI virus variant has been present since January. The latest official report outlines 50 outbreaks that occurred between then and April, bringing the state’s total to 52. Sixteen of the most recent outbreaks were on farms with up to 32,000 birds. Others were in backyard flocks. So far, the outbreaks have involved more than 156,000 poultry in the state.
To the north of Maharashtra is Gujarat. After a three-month absence, the H5N1 HPAI virus returned to this state in January. In the first two months of the year, it was detected at one farm and in two backyard flocks comprising a total of around 17,500 poultry.
Bordering Gujarat to the east is Madhya Pradesh. In December of 2020, the H5N8 virus variant was detected for the first time since 2018. Latest official reports outline three confirmed outbreaks in this state up to mid-January. All affected flocks were non-commercial, and comprised a total of around 3,200 birds.
To the south-east of Madhya Pradesh lies Chhattisgarh. In this state, both the H5N1 and H5N8 HPAI virus variants were detected in poultry in the early part of this year. Affected were farms with almost 22,000 and 11,000 birds, respectively.
Located at the northeast of Chhattisgarh is Uttar Pradesh, where the first birds since 2018 tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus subtype back in January. Affected were more than 14,600 poultry in what is described as a backyard flock.
On the state’s northwestern border is Haryana. Here too, the H5N8 virus was detected in January — at two poultry farms with more than 196,000 birds between them. According to the OIE report, all susceptible birds within one kilometer of the infected premises were destroyed. These cases bring the state’s total outbreaks for the year to four, involving around 365,400 poultry.
Further to the north is Punjab. At five locations in this state — four farms and one backyard flock — tested positive for the same virus subtype between early January and the end of April this year. Of the 214,000 poultry at these premises, more than 69,000 died, and 145,000 have been destroyed.
In one of India’s most northerly union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, the H5N8 virus variant was detected at four farms and a livestock market between January and mid-March. Of the 840 birds directly impacted by these outbreaks, nine died. The other birds are reported to have been culled to prevent further spread of the infection.
First HPAI outbreak in Pakistan reported since 2018
In early August, the H5N8 HPAI virus was detected for the first time in Pakistan since early 2019.
According to the official report to the OIE, all 3,000 birds in a commercial flock in the province of Punjab died. It was noted that the birds were of the Rhode Island Red breed.
Controls were implemented at nearby farms, and no further cases have been reported. As a result, the national veterinary agency has declared the outbreak to be under control, and now closed.
Vietnam registers four new HPAI outbreaks
According to recent reports to the OIE, four more poultry flocks in northern Vietnam have tested positive for HPAI.
Detected for the first time in June of this year, the H5N8 virus variant was detected in three more village flocks during August and September. Ranging in size from 55 to 108 birds, the flocks were located in two provinces in the Northeastern and North Central Coast regions.
Testing positive for the H5N6 virus in August was a village flock of 189 poultry in the Northeastern region of the country.
One month ago, Vietnam’s authorities confirmed nine new HPAI outbreaks in poultry to the OIE.
HPAI returns to Russia’s Urals federal district
After a six-month hiatus, H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected again in the Chelyabinsk oblast.
Around 2,000 of the 17,000 poultry at a farm in this area died in late August, according to the official report. On September 1, a second outbreak was reported — this time in a backyard flock of 1,215 poultry, 129 of which died. The fate of the remaining birds has not specified to the OIE.
Taiwan detects H5N2 HPAI in one duck
In early August, a dead duck found by a roadside in the county of Yulin tested positive for the H5N2 HPAI virus. According to the official report to the OIE, the virus was a member of clade 22.214.171.124.b. This was the first detection of this virus family for about three months.
In recent weeks, Taiwan’s veterinary authority has declared to the OIE that four earlier avian flu outbreak series had been “resolved” in the territory. This covered H5 and H5N2 HPAI outbreaks in poultry, as well as low-pathogenic H5N2 in poultry, and H5N5 HPAI in wild birds.
Starting in early 2015, these outbreaks in the territory totaled 66 involving domestic birds. These directly involved just over 1.54 million poultry.
Avian flu 'resolved' in Nepal
With the country’s last recorded HPAI outbreak in May, Nepal’s animal health authority has declared the disease situation closed.
At the end of January, the first poultry tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus. Up until May, a total of nine outbreaks were confirmed on farms and in backyards flocks near the capital, Kathmandu, and in the Central and Midwestern regions.
According to reports submitted to the OIE, the outbreaks directly impacted almost 27,400 poultry. More than 4,200 of the birds died, and the rest were destroyed.
China reports new human infections with influenza virus of avian origin
Over the past month, five new cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6), and two with H9N2 infections have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). All patients were in China.
These latest cases bring to 45 the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N6 virus subtype — including 23 deaths — reported in the Western Pacific Region since 2014. Of these, 44 have been in China.
First of the latest cases H5N6 was a 52-year-old woman from Huizhou in Guangdong province. Her symptoms began on July 31. At the time of reporting, she was in a critical condition. The patient had had previous contract with backyard poultry. However environmental samples taken from the area tested negative for the virus.
On August 23, Chinese authorities reported to the WHO that a male farmer, aged 55, had tested positive for the H5N6 avian flu virus. From Laibin in Guangxi province, the patient was also in a critical condition. It had not been possible to ascertain whether he had any prior contact with poultry.
Within days, a 48-year-old female doctor from Luizhou - also in Guangxi province - tested positive for the same virus following contact with live poultry. She was admitted to hospital in a severe condition.
On September 9, the most recent case reported to the WHO was admitted to hospital, also in a severe condition. She was a teacher in Yongzhou in Hunan province, who had previously visited a live bird market.
A further patient has tested positive for the virus in China, according to the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong. Reported on September 23 to be in a critical condition was a 53-year-old man from Dongguan in Guangdong province.
With respect to the avian influenza A(H9N2) virus, a total of 58 cases of human infection have been reported to WHO in the Western Pacific Region since December of 2015. This includes 17 cases so far this year.
Both of the latest cases were in Chinese children. At the end of August, the infection was detected in a 20-month-old girl from Changsha in Hunan province following a mild illness. Around two weeks later, an 11-year-old boy — also showing mild symptoms — tested positive for the same virus. He came from Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Guizhou province. Both of the children had been in contact with domestic poultry before their infections.
In none of these cases was there any indication of the virus being transmitted from the patient to other family members, according to the official reports.
View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.