Avian flu outbreak in India brings forth links to environment, animal and human health- Technology News, Firstpost

by Sahana Ghosh

As avian flu swept via India in direction of the top of 2020 and early 2021, states scrambled to step up vigil and measures to regulate the unfold of the illness. The 2020/2021 outbreak, marked by the numerous involvement and mortality of untamed birds, has spotlighted the necessity for proactive monitoring of animal illness within the setting, conserving unprotected wetland habitats to curb illness unfold, and addressing data gaps just like the wild waterfowl–poultry interface.

Avian Influenza (AI) is a extremely contagious viral illness that impacts each home and wild birds. AI happens worldwide, and totally different strains are extra prevalent in sure areas of the world than others. In accordance to the World Organisation for Animal Well being, wild aquatic birds, corresponding to geese, shorebirds, and wild geese, are the pure reservoirs of influenza A viruses. AI viruses are broadly categorized as low pathogenic AI (LPAI) and extremely pathogenic AI (HPAI) viruses, based mostly on their pathogenicity.

The most recent hen flu outbreak in poultry and wild birds spanned 14 Indian states / Union Territories from Jammu and Kashmir within the north to Kerala within the south. Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Kerala had been notably severely affected. The most recent outbreak concerned extremely pathogenic viral strains H5N1 and H5N8, in accordance to the Indian authorities.

“Avian influenza and different zoonotic illnesses are within the setting, and as human actions encroach pure habitats and environments utilized by wild species, the chance of transmission will increase. Now we have reached a stage the place we should proactively improve monitoring of untamed hen and animal illness in the environment to behave as an early warning system of change/arrival of potential illnesses,” Taej Mundkur, Worldwide Waterbird Census Coordinator and Senior Technical Officer, Wetlands Worldwide (The Netherlands), advised Mongabay-India.

“Such a surveillance programme needs to be developed via organising year-round passive and lively surveillance at a community of places throughout the nation. This may enable us to be higher ready and reply when a brand new pathogen or new pressure of a recognized pathogen arrives,” stated Mundkur, including that the One Well being framework, in its broadest sense, goals to enhance the well being of people, agriculture, and wildlife/setting and recognises this net of interconnections and interactions throughout our planet earth.

The Ramsar Conference on Wetlands and the Conference on Migratory Species and the Scientific Job Power on Avian Influenza and Migratory Birds have supplied beneficial worldwide steering on responses/actions to avian influenza within the wild birds-wetland interface, provides Mundkur. They embrace guaranteeing that there isn’t a consideration of killing wild birds, spraying poisonous merchandise, or negatively affecting wetland habitats as illness management measures, steering on illness management measures are related for each Ramsar websites and all different protected and unprotected wetlands and rising biosecurity of wetland website.

India has emerged as a international hotspot for HPAI H5N1, whereas additionally offering essential wintering habitat for a lot of species of migratory waterfowl and year-round habitat for a number of resident waterfowl species. The nation lies on the coronary heart of Central Asian Flyway (CAF), which spans 30 nations and covers 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species that depend on wetlands alongside the flyway, together with the Pong Dam wetlands (Pong Lake Wildlife Sanctuary), a Ramsar website, the place giant scale mortalities of long-distance migratory birds corresponding to bar-headed geese, first alerted biologists in December 2020.

 Avian flu outbreak in India brings forth links to environment, animal and human health

Demoiselle cranes, one of many many migratory birds that fly all the way down to India, noticed on the Tal Chhapar Sanctuary in Rajasthan. Picture courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Experiences of deaths of over 2000 birds at Pong Lake in Himachal Pradesh had been adopted by alerts of peacock mortalities in Maharashtra, deaths of lapwings close to Kharo Dam in Gujarat’s Junagadh district, and jungle crows in Uttarakhand. Upon affirmation of the avian flu outbreak, a complete of 4,49,271 poultry birds had been culled until February 12, 2021, to regulate the illness unfold, as per the Nationwide Motion Plan for Prevention, Management, and Containment of Avian Influenza. India’s poultry sector is valued at about Rs. 80,000 crore and employs over 10 lakh farmers.

Addressing data gaps

Data gaps stay within the nature of the wild waterfowl–poultry interface and the sharing of various wetland habitat amongst these birds.

Evolutionary ecologist Farah Ishtiaq underscored the necessity for a well-designed examine to display poultry and home waterfowl for low pathogenic viruses. “We lack such information,” Ishtiaq advised Mongabay-India. “Excessive species variety and low water temperature are recognized to boost virus survival in sure elements of the world. Nonetheless, within the Indian context, poultry performs an enormous position in circulating the virus all year long. Due to this fact, there have been stories of outbreaks in nonseason time as effectively,” added Ishtiaq, senior scientist at Tata Institute for Genetics and Society. She confused on speedy testing for confirming the reason for loss of life of untamed birds. “Viruses are very delicate to temperature and RNA degrades actually quick with a rise in temperature. We’d like a simplified system to display such samples in real-time because the circumstances are reported to determine the trigger and viral pressure,” stated Ishtiaq.

In accordance with panorama epidemiologist Michael Walsh, co-author of a 2020 examine that systematically investigated the extent of the interface between wild waterfowl and poultry and its affect on the chance of HPAI H5N1 outbreaks in India, there was proof of interplay between poultry and wild waterfowl regarding H5N1 outbreaks.

“Our outcomes confirmed that outbreak threat did improve with rising poultry density, which is consistent with earlier research. Nonetheless, what we additionally confirmed (and what earlier research haven’t explored) is that when you think about the landscapes the place these poultry are held, outbreak threat was really highest amongst low-density poultry holdings the place poultry had been in prime wild waterfowl habitat. Conversely, outbreak threat was greater amongst high-density poultry holdings solely when these holdings had been in areas the place the poultry had been least prone to come into contact with wild waterfowl,” Walsh, on the College of Sydney, advised Mongabay-India.

The examine additionally discovered that H5N1 outbreak incidence was greater with higher proximity particularly to lakes, rivers, and coastal wetlands. These findings present particular factors within the panorama that could be good targets for interrupting the biking of avian influenza viruses, for instance, by blocking the mixed-use of floor water by home poultry and wild waterfowl.

A veterinarian checks on chickens for symptoms of avian flu. Image: Science

These viruses happen naturally amongst wild aquatic birds worldwide and may infect home poultry and different hen and animal species. Avian flu viruses don’t usually infect people. Picture Credit score: Science Journal

Whereas the emphasis needs to be on monitoring a number of waterbird websites of native, nationwide, and worldwide significance, surveillance is difficult by the character of the poultry-wildbird-wetlands interface. “The story will not be easy; home birds in an contaminated space are interacting with wild birds and a few of these birds could also be resident or migratory; the setting will be contaminated so you have got these interactions occurring in an space the place there’s an an infection,” defined Mundkur.

“As poultry themselves don’t fly round, the virus will be carried within the commerce of poultry/poultry merchandise, pet birds, and in tools (fomites) between farms and from the farms to wetlands and to markets. As soon as the virus is launched right into a wetland, it could actually infect migratory or home birds, and from the place the virus can transfer to a different space via native actions of those birds. This may increasingly then reinfect poultry or resident birds. Moreover, the virus could also be picked up by predatory birds or raptors in the event that they feed on useless or dying contaminated wild birds or poultry.”

There are numerous totally different peculiarities in coping with the virus, and understanding the scenario in an space is especially necessary, he noticed.

Farah Ishtiaq provides that unprotected wetlands are below fixed strain from urbanisation and air pollution. With the lack of habitat and improve in poultry, the wildbird and poultry buffer has diminished and elevated interplay and trade of viruses – not simply spillover however in all probability spillback from poultry as effectively, she stated.

Kamal Saini, an assistant zoologist at Zoological Survey of India’s Excessive Altitude Regional Centre at Solan, Himachal Pradesh, was a part of the group that did an preliminary survey of Pong Dam wetlands in January following stories of mass loss of life of migratory birds. He noticed useless bar-headed geese, pochards, pin-tail, black stilt, sand plovers, mallard, spot-billed duck, coot, frequent teal, lapwing, amongst others at Pong.

“We noticed the bar-headed geese making an attempt to strategy the land from the water, fall, squirm for a couple of minutes, after which drop useless. This was earlier than avian influenza was confirmed. The forest division had put in place restrictions. After the birds die, their carcasses are attacked by predators like stray canines, black kites, and tawny eagles; they might carry the virus to distant wild and domesticated animals,” Saini advised Mongabay-India. So it stays a problem for the division to bury the carcass earlier than these predators assault them. “Moreover, the bar-headed geese which might be unable to achieve the financial institution, and die on the water might pose one other risk to people via consumption of affected fish,” he stated.

Saini noticed that yearly 1000’s of winter migratory birds, such because the bar-headed goose, make a pit cease at Pong Dam and different wetlands on their journey from Central Asia, Tibet, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and any adjustments in habitat high quality can push them to search for different habitats.

Bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) is a long-distance migrant to the Indian subcontinent, with its main inhabitants breeding in China. There’s a small breeding inhabitants in Ladakh, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan. Migrating bar-headed geese have been reported from many protected and non-protected wetlands of Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Maharashtra.

“This yr their stoppages at Sukhna lake in Chandigarh had been diminished, however they had been seen in good numbers in small ponds in Haryana which implies that defending habitat high quality even in these small water our bodies is essential,” stated Saini.

Researchers at Bangor College collaborating with a big worldwide group of researchers, reported in 2011 that bar-headed geese can fly as much as 6,000 m in solely 8 hours whereas passing over the Himalayan mountain vary – the same intense climb may kill a human with out prolonged acclimatisation. “When the birds arrive right here they’re subjected to fatigue following their lengthy flight and they’re extra prone to the an infection,” suspects Bivash Pandav, director, Bombay Pure Historical past Society (BNHS), including that the poultry and piggeries are essentially the most prone to the virus.

“Most of those wetlands the place you see migratory birds are unprotected websites, so involving communities in wetland administration is crucial,” Pandav advised Mongabay-India.

Pandav reiterates common well being monitoring and sampling of untamed birds in chosen wetland spots to get a way of the illness prevalence and the strains. “In any other case, we attempt to do all this when the mortalities happen. At BNHS, now we have been capturing and ringing birds in several elements of the nation. However we are attempting to include the illness monitoring element into our ringing programme. We’re on the lookout for monetary help for the evaluation of the samples,” added Pandav.

This text was initially printed on Mongabay.com.

Mongabay-India is an environmental science and conservation information service. This text has been republished below the Artistic Commons license.

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